25-yr Environment Plan (UK)

The UK issued a few moments ago, its long awaited 25-yr Environment Plan. The Plan is here.

I will update this post on the Blog here with the Plan key commitments, targets and schedules. Please note, the updates will not be sent as emails to your inbox (the original post is emailed). So make a note, to check back on the Blog post itself.

UPDATE

Pledges :

(1) eliminate avoidable plastic waste by 2042,

(2) remove exceptions in England plastic bag regulations [the latest amendment to the EU Packaging and Packing Waste Directive stipulates measures on plastic bags by end 2018, plus the European Commission’s Plastics Strategy is announced next week – I will write a separate Blog post about it],

(2)(a) consultation in a charge for single-use plastic containers,

(3) protect ancient woodland and plant more trees, a new Tree Champion to be appointed after the National Planning Policy Framework is updated,

(4) retain strong targets for wildlife, water and air,

(5) “polluter pays” and “public money for public goods” as guiding principles for future farming policy (plus subsidy reform from 2024 (2022-2024 consultation) – this may be set out in the forthcoming Brexit Agriculture Bill),

(6) sustainable drainage to make cities safer from floods – new planning guidelines,

(7) healthcare that takes advantage of green prescriptions – preventative care that can make the most of “natural health service”,

(8) nature integrated in urban communities – net nature gain in new developments (possibly via the revamp of the National Planning Policy Framework,

(9) a new Watchdog to hold government to account – a new environment body to replace the activities of the EU’s Commission and Courts (this was an earlier DEFRA announcement – see recent Blog posts – the next step is consultation),

(10) nature targets (little detail),

(11) “leave the environment in a better state than they found it”, “the goals of our 25 year environment plan are simple: clean air, clean and plentiful water, plants and animals which are thriving, and a cleaner, greener country for us all. A better world for each of us to live in and a better future for the next generation.”,

(12) a miscellany of other pledges with little attached detail.

Note : the objectives in the plan itself add relatively little to the European and international commitments the UK is already signed up to.

But : the UK is meant to achieve good ecological status for all water bodies by the mid 2020s under the EU Water Framework Directive. The commitment in this 25-yr plan to achieve good water quality “as soon as practicable” is a lesser target.

Also : there is no mention of implementation of the forthcoming EU Circular Economy amendments to six existing Waste Directives.

Plus : there is no mention of the EU “precautionary principle’, particularly relevant to chemicals.

Waste (UK)

On 1st January 2018 China imposed a ban on the import of certain types of waste including mixed paper and post-consumer plastics (plastics thrown away by consumers). In addition, some other types of waste, including all other paper and plastics exports, will have to meet a reduced acceptable contamination level of 0.5% from March 2018.

China’s decision has a global impact, including in the UK. 3.7 million tonnes of plastic waste are created in the UK in a single year. Of that total, the UK exports 0.8 million tonnes to countries around the world, of which 0.4 million tonnes is sent to China (incl. Hong Kong). In comparison, other countries including Germany (0.6 million tonnes), Japan and the US (both 1.5 million tonnes) export more plastic to China for reprocessing than the UK. The UK also exports 3.7 million tonnes of paper waste to China (incl. Hong Kong), out of 9.1 million tonnes of paper waste in total. In comparison, the US exports 12.8 million tonnes of paper waste to China.

Today, the DEFRA Secretary outlined in a Written Statement here, the progress made on this matter.

The statement identifies that the Environment Agency has issued fresh guidance to exporters, stating that any waste which does not meet China’s new criteria will be stopped, in the same way as banned waste going to any other country. If you are exporting waste, please check the guidance you are using. If you wish this guidance to be loaded onto the EHS Legislation Registers, please let me know (it currently is not loaded).

The statement confirms Operators must continue to manage waste on their sites in accordance with the permit conditions issued by the Environment Agency (England), (presumably ditto in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). Where export markets or domestic reprocessing are not available, the process chosen to manage waste must be the one that minimises the environmental impact of treatment as fully as possible and follows the waste hierarchy. This requires operators to ensure that where waste cannot be prevented or reused it is recycled where practicable, before considering energy recovery through incineration or the last resort of disposal to landfill.

In July 2017, the DEFRA Secretary announced at the World Wildlife Fund its intention to publish a new Resources and Waste Strategy later in 2018. The Clean Growth Strategy, published on 12 October 2017, set out the ambition for zero avoidable waste by 2050 and announced that changes are being explored to the producer responsibility scheme. An earlier Blog post details the Clean Growth Strategy key elements.

In December 2017, the DEFRA Secretary chaired an industry roundtable on plastics and outlined his four point plan for tackling plastic waste: cutting the total amount of plastic in circulation; reducing the number of different plastics in use; improving the rate of recycling; supporting comprehensive and frequent rubbish and recycling collections, and making it easier for individuals to know what goes into the recycling bin and what goes into general rubbish.

Other measures (mentioned in this Statement) are :

  1. the existing 5p charge on plastic bags that has taken 9 billion bags out of circulation, reducing usage by 83%,
  2. the ban on the manufacture of personal care products containing plastic microbeads in force tomorrow 9th January 2018 (an earlier Blog post identifies this, and Email Alerts have been sent to subscribers likely to need this legislation – if you have not received this Email Alert and need the legislation, please let me know),
  3. a call for evidence (October 2017) on managing single use drinks containers – DEFRA working group will report to Ministers early in 2018,
  4. work with HMT (Treasury) on a call for evidence in 2018 to seek views on how the tax system or charges could reduce the amount of single use plastics waste, and
  5. £3bn committed by 2042 under the Waste Infrastructure Delivery Programme to support a range of facilities to keep waste out of landfill and increase recycling levels.

The Statement confirms China’s decision underlines the need for progress in all these areas, specifically waste reduction, and minimising waste export.

The Statement identifies DEFRA will set out further steps in the coming weeks and months to achieve these goals, including in the forthcoming 25 Year Environment Plan.

UK exits the EU (animal health certificates of competence)

I posted earlier on ECHA advice to UK companies, and European Commission Notices to UK Operators.

Animal health has been debated in UK Parliament as part of its consideration of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill 2017-19. Following this debate, DEFRA has issued a statement about Animal Health. This statement is here.

[A] The European Commission has issued a Notice to slaughterhouse operators holding a certificate of competence relevant to exports to the European Union. This notice is here.

(1) Certificates of competence delivered in the United Kingdom will no longer be valid in the European Union from the moment the United Kingdom becomes a third country (exit date).

(2) Slaughterhouse operators shall ensure that some operations are only carried out by persons holding a certificate of competence (exports to the European Union). This requirement also applies to animal welfare officers (vets) who are working in a slaughterhouse (exports to the European Union).

[B] The European Commission has issued a Notice to transporters of live animals to the European Union. This notice is here.

(1) Transporter authorisations granted by the competent authorities of the United Kingdom pursuant to Articles 10 or 11 of the Regulation will no longer be valid in the European Union from the moment the United Kingdom becomes a third country (exit date).

(2) Certificates of approval of means of transport, and of drivers and attendants granted by the competent authorities of the United Kingdom will no longer be valid in the European Union from the moment the United Kingdom becomes a third country (exit date).

These two notices are located here.

Neonicotinoids (UK/EU)

UPDATE : the DEFRA statement is here

UK DEFRA has confirmed an article in this morning’s Guardian online – the UK will back a total EU ban on neonicotinoids. This newspaper article is here

“A total ban on insect-harming pesticides in fields across Europe will be backed by the UK, environment secretary Michael Gove has revealed. The decision reverses the government’s previous position and is justified by recent new evidence showing neonicotinoids have contaminated the whole landscape and cause damage to colonies of bees. It also follows the revelation that 75% of all flying insects have disappeared in Germany and probably much further afield, a discovery Gove said had shocked him.”

In 2013, three neonicotinoids were restricted by the EU.

Per The Guardian : “The European Commission now wants a total ban on their use outside of greenhouses, with a vote expected in December, and the UK’s new position makes it very likely to pass.”

The European Commission’s information on its regulatory activities in this area is here

DEFRA update (UK)

On 1st November, DEFRA Secretary Michael Gove appeared before the UK Environmental Audit Committee hearing (having first appeared before the Lords EU Committee). The recording is here.

(1) Consultation for a new Environmental Regulator would likely take place ahead of the UK’s departure in March 2019.

“The need for a body or bodies has been clearly identified… as a need to safeguard the environment.”

“Outside the EU, the question is what replaces the Commission. How do we have the ECJ’s role replicated? I think that this is an absolutely important question, and my thinking is that we should consult on what type of body would be appropriate to replace the role that the Commission and Court have played.”

“It’s right that… we ensure there is a right balance between ensuring people continue to have recourse to the court through judicial review, but also recognise that you might need an agency, body or commission that has the power to potentially fine or otherwise hold government and public bodies to account.”

“We could have a system in that UK that is stronger and more effective than the EU’s because the Government could be held to account in a way that the EU itself currently cannot.”

(2) Re : DEFRA 25-yr Plan – Defra had initially planned frameworks for two separate 25-year environment and food & farming plans, but there would now be only one document published, which would be released either before Christmas or, at latest, in January 2018. The document would feature new policies in key areas such as recycling and biodiversity. 

The plan could see the UK Government step up its voluntary approach on food waste targets (NB Scotland and NI have specific food waste producer obligations, and Wales prohibits down the drawn disposal of food waste). 

“I am very keen that we should try to reduce food waste at every stage in the cycle”

“Having an ambitious target to reduce avoidable waste is an incredibly useful tool and discipline.”

The plan, which will be open for consultation, would be followed by a command paper on the future shape of agriculture, as a prelude to the agricultural bill expected in early Spring.

(3) Re : China’s ban on 24 grades of waste material imports, due to come into force in January [UK exports around 4.5 million tonnes of waste to China for recycling or recovery.]

“I don’t know what impact it will have.”

“It is a very good question and something to which I’ll be completely honest I have not given sufficient thought.”