Defra has published the UK’s response to European Commission public consultations on the circular economy and on the functioning of waste markets, in which it states that it “endorses the use of voluntary measures, which have been successful in the UK” but is opposed to the “prescriptive approaches that do not allow Member States scope to take account of their national circumstances.”
On the circular economy specifically, the Defra response states: “The UK considers that any proposals should be fully in line with the Commission’s own better regulation tests set out in Vice President Timmermans’s announcement in May this year. This means reducing unnecessary costs and complexity to business, consumers and administrators wherever possible, and making sure that measures are complementary rather than contradictory or duplicative.
It adds that the UK believes that the EU should support the establishment of EU-wide networks to promote industrial symbiosis, which should engage traditionally separate industries and organisations to foster innovative strategies for more sustainable resource use; and that the EU should ensure coherence between existing EU initiatives around product policy and design, such as the Ecolabel Scheme which is praised, but then criticised for having a lack of up to date and available data.
It also adds that the EU should review the wider role played by chemicals in supporting a more circular economy; that it should develop and provide businesses with practical information, advice and support on improving their resource efficiency, so as to ensure economies of scale and to provide an enabling framework within the Single Market; and that it should support the efforts of Member States to use public procurement to stimulate the market, in conjunction with private sector buyers where appropriate.
On the functioning of waste markets consultation, the UK would “strongly support”:
- Exemptions for some SMEs from registering as waste carriers if they only transport small amounts of their own non-hazardous waste for example a small shop owner;
- Removing the need for applying for permit exemptions for activities that pose little risk, such as small-scale composting by schools;
- Exempting companies which collect smaller amounts of batteries from paying for battery recycling.
Concluding, the response highlights the key areas the UK would want the Commission to focus as it develops its new package on the Circular Economy. These are to draw on the principles of Better Regulation; to approach the circular economy as a whole and facilitate the establishment of a framework of actions to ensure a holistic approach; to build on current measures and develop new ideas to keep materials in circulation where it makes sense economically, environmentally and socially; to improve coherence in product policy, remove barriers to innovative business models and promote better, more sustainable and resource efficient, design and innovation; and to work together with other parts of the Commission.