| Sustainability

The Autumn Statement: A missed opportunity but change is coming in Wales

In this blog, Reconomy’s Head of Sustainability Nathan Gray offers his insights on what this year’s Autumn Statement means for policy, planning, and progress in the world of circularity.

Hot on the heels of the King’s Speech, the much-anticipated Autumn Statement brought mixed developments in the realm of sustainability and the circular economy. It reflects the progress still to be made when it comes to the government’s commitment to addressing environmental concerns.

Tax rises and funds

In terms of announcements, there was an increase in the plastic packaging tax from £201.82 per tonne to £217.85 per tonne, in line with Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation figure. Tax receipts surpassed Treasury estimates in its first year and so we can expect to see a further increase when the new rate kicks in.

The aggregates levy was raised by 8 pence to £2.08 and plans for a pilot fund worth around £80 million were unveiled to “alleviate the cost of landfill tax where it is acting as a barrier to the remediation and redevelopment of contaminated land.”

There was also news of a substantial investment in the Industrial Energy Transformation Fund to help firms transition to a low-carbon future while retaining industrial competitiveness by encouraging investment in energy-efficient technologies.

Conspicuous by absence

But perhaps the most newsworthy aspects of the Chancellor’s fiscal event were the absences.

There was no news on the ongoing Simpler Recycling proposals, Deposit Return Schemes, or on Extended Producer Responsibility – three landmarks of the UK’s transition to a circular economy which we expect to be brought forward this decade.

Given the uncertainty surrounding the nation’s finances and the government beginning to enter Election readiness it is perhaps of little surprise that policy bringing extra cost on businesses, and consumers in some cases, has been put on the back burner.

However, we expect the implementation of these policies appears inevitable if the UK is to meet its climate objectives and it is a shame that the government feels it cannot grasp the bull by the horns to push them forward.

The Welsh example

To see the direction of travel, one only has to look across the Severn Bridge where Wales are steaming – bio-powered, of course – ahead with the sort of recycling reform we can soon expect to see in England.

From 6 April 2024, it will become law for all businesses, charities, and public sector organisations to sort their waste for recycling. This will also apply to all waste and recycling collectors and processors who manage household-like waste from workplaces.

The stated aim to is “to keep materials in use for as long as possible [as] with the costs of materials rising, keeping high-quality materials in use will help our economy and support our supply chains.”

It is an exciting step towards a zero-waste world and a circular economy that could become world-leading once these changes are bedded in.

We will be watching with interest from England to see how these reforms could be successfully implemented. The Autumn Statement may not have delivered on the circular economy, but change is coming.