The result of the UK’s referendum on EU membership is likely to have sent shockwaves through the waste and resource management industry. In the run-up to the recent Resourcing the Future conference, organised by the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, the Environmental Services Association and the Resource Association, an electronic poll revealed that 80 per cent of delegates favoured remaining in the EU.
The impact of the vote to leave the EU is yet to be fully felt, with years of discussion and debate ahead before a full exit agreement is forged. In the meantime, however, many in the waste management industry are concerned to maintain the progress and development of environmental initiatives that have already been achieved in the UK, such as the EU Circular Economy package.
A positive force
In response to the referendum result, Steve Lee, Chief Executive Officer of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management, said: “While it was conspicuously absent from the respective referendum campaigns, there is no hiding from the fact that EU membership has been a strong positive force for the quality of our environment and the associated benefits for our health, well being, jobs, skills, growth and general sustainability.
“Stepping out of the EU brings financial, policy, legal and performance uncertainty, which may well threaten a slow-down or reversal of the improvements we have enjoyed in recent years. As sustainable resources and waste management professionals, as an Institution, and as an industry we must now work together to build on what has been achieved to date. This will require leadership, determination and an industry ready to work with Governments – of whatever flavour – to protect what we have and to drive for further improvement. More than ever now, we need forward looking strategies across the UK to support investment and performance in this sector.”
Broadly speaking there are a number of scenarios for waste management law post the UK’s exit from the European Union:
• The UK continues to be bound by EU waste management legislation
• The UK retains all current EU waste management legislation but is not bound to implement future legislation
• The UK develops its own laws and policies from scratch
However, it is worth noting that many of the UK’s environmental laws are based on international treaties and agreements, which are still binding and will remain so.
While we wait for the withdrawal process to begin and for any changes to come, the main message to the waste management industry and those who have to comply with waste management regulations is that it is business as usual. Environmental and waste management regulations continue to apply and must be adhered to.
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