Opportunity knocks for waste industry after Brexit

We’re leaving. It’s official. Only we don’t know when or how (maybe we don’t really know why, either, but that’s another debate). So it’s auf widersehen European Union (EU), with your 12 landfill taxes (five in France alone), au revoir Eurocrats with your confusing and opaque legislative ways and hello to … what?

Well, we’re not quite sure. This blog looks at what we do know, and where the opportunities for Grundon and the wider waste industry might lie.

Opportunity Knocks For Waste Industry After Brexit
There are three ways that the UK waste industry could go after Brexit:

We could do nothing and bury our heads in the sand. We could track and keep pace with EU policy or we can surge ahead, invest, innovate and lead the way, opening up new global opportunities.

The UK Government’s new Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey told Wastelines: “Making the most of our resources is hugely important. We have made great progress reducing waste to landfill and increasing our recycling rates, but more can be done, on an individual and community level.

“Our waste sector is world leading with great examples of bold innovation and its cutting-edge science and engineering can play a vital role helping us protect our environment and grow our economy.”

What we know for sure

Until the UK Government invokes Article 50, triggering the beginning of our formal withdrawal from the European Union, it’s business as usual. We’re still part of the EU and the waste industry is still subject to European law. As our Government seems in no hurry to begin the process, it could be 2019, or even 2020 before we’re flying solo.

Steve Lee, Fellow and former Chief Executive Officer of the Chartered Institute of Wastes Management (who moved to become Director General of Resources and Waste UK in November 2016) believes that the UK should be environmentally ambitious. Following the referendum result he said: “More than ever now, we need forward looking strategies across the UK to support investment and performance in this sector.”

A good thing, then, that Grundon’s ahead of the curve. We will use the Brexit decision as a springboard to build business in new and emerging markets. This is a time for collaboration, positive thinking and a steady hand. We are already looking at ‘new’ Europe and the ample opportunities for growth that we believe lie there for Grundon, but we won’t be abandoning those countries in the European Union.

Opportunities for closer collaboration

We’re looking for closer collaboration with like-minded partners in Europe, to foster new relationships and share ideas.

In March 2016, we announced a ground-breaking new agreement between us and construction industry leader MAN Enterprise, to develop waste facilities across the Middle East and Africa (MEA). MAN has committed to develop waste infrastructure across the MEA region.

This new partnership is enabling us to broaden our operations internationally and share our innovation and knowledge within a new marketplace, which we will to use as a springboard for future international growth.

Grundon will provide recommendations on Best Available Technology (BAT) and knowledge transfer on the technical aspects of establishing a state-of-the-art waste infrastructure; including the design, build, installation and commissioning of waste treatment facilities such as Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs), recycling, composting, Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) and Energy from Waste (EfW) facilities.

We will also provide expertise in areas such as health and safety, environmental mitigation and the development of effective and sustainable working practices.

The Middle East and Africa regions are witnessing tremendous growth in their population and economies; this is posing additional challenges to a solid waste sector and offers a huge opportunity for Grundon to provide consultancy services and advise on the development of critical infrastructure.

International-opportunities-for-sharing-waste-knowledge-and-innovation-post-Brexit
International opportunities: growing populations and economies outside of the EU present opportunities to share knowledge and innovation

What now for environmental policy?

One positive outcome of the Brexit decision, in our view, is that the right to set our own waste legislation will be returned to us. Brexit is not an excuse to recycle less, it should be a driver for businesses to stay on top of EU waste legislation. If they don’t, they could find themselves left out in the cold. Brexit is an opportunity to speed up our recycling and waste management ambitions. However, to do this we have to untangle ourselves from a huge amount of EU legislation, which means we will also lose EU financial support.

Speaking during a recent Government Energy and Environment Sub-Committee looking at the potential impacts of Brexit on environmental policy, Professor Andrew Jordan of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research at the University of East Anglia pointed out that over the last 40 years, the UK Government has enjoyed a lot of support for long-term policy-making from the European Commission, the European Environment Agency and the European Parliament.

He said: “If Brexit really is going to mean Brexit—so pulling fully out of the European Union—new systems of policy will need to operate within new systems of governance and new institutional systems, including systems of national parliamentary scrutiny.”

So while we potentially lose out on funding, we win on relinquishing Brussels red tape and can build a new policy framework that benefits Britain and British businesses.

One of the new areas of EU policy making in the pipeline is the circular economy package. This is where countries are encouraged to keep resources in use as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recovering and regenerating products and materials at the end of their serviceable lives. We support this ambition, in or out of Europe. The circular economy offers an opportunity to reinvent our economy, making it more sustainable and competitive while cutting resource use, reducing waste and boosting recycling.

What now for waste legislation?

So what EU laws and requirements will the UK continue to be bound by when we leave?

It depends on what sort of Brexit we go for. According to Dr Charlotte Burns of the University of York’s environmental department, if we go for a complete exit, any EU laws that have been adopted by primary legislation in this country would continue to apply until they were reviewed, deregulated or removed. She said that one of the options available that should probably be pursued is some kind of holding Act that says, ‘All the provisions adopted under the European Communities Act will still apply until we can determine which we want to keep in place and which we might want to review moving forward’.

So there you have it. We wish we could have been a bit more specific about what Brexit means. In a nutshell, there are indeed many risks associated with Brexit, but there are also potential rewards. Great Britain will, to a certain extent, have to tow the line and work within existing and probably future EU policy in order to maintain our trading links.

However, throwing off the shackles of ponderous EU policy-making could, if we are quick on our feet, offer huge opportunities to enter new and lucrative new markets. Grundon is already doing this in the Middle East and Africa thanks to our association with MAN Enterprise. We are world-leaders in terms of sustainable development and we can now maximise our opportunities and take our initiatives to all corners of the world.

Frequently Asked Questions

When the UK Government invokes Article 50, triggering the beginning of our formal withdrawal from the European Union. It could be 2019, or even 2020 before we are finally free from Europe.

It’s business as usual. We’re still part of the EU and the waste industry is still subject to European law.

We could do nothing and bury our heads in the sand. We could keep pace with EU policy or we can invest, innovate and lead the way.

We are already working in the Middle East and Africa, advising a construction company on the development of waste infrastructure across the MEA region.

What will happen to the negotiations regarding the Circular Economy Package?

The Department for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DeFRA) is continuing its engagement with stakeholder bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Wastes Management (CIWM) and the Environmental Services Association (ESA).

Will Brexit benefit the waste industry in the longer term?

Who knows? What we can be sure of is that the UK has some of the most exciting waste management technology in the world and the appetite to share it globally. While we are within the European Union, we are constrained by EU regulations; outside we can apply UK innovation directly for the benefit of our country. In or out of Europe, our industry will work with UK policy-makers to capitalise and expand the environmental policies already in place.

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