According to the reports published by The Guardian, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Gove, aims to introduce a new waste strategy in the coming weeks, which will aim to significantly increase charges for recycling of plastic packaging paid by the producers and retailers.

The Ministers are considering many options to boost recycling in the UK and curb the abuse of the export of almost two thirds of our plastic waste to Turkey, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand, as reported by the National Audit Office. A new system must take into account the EU's circular economy obligations, which the UK has signed and will continue to be in place after Brexit. These obligations require food and drink companies and other retailers to cover the net costs of household recycling waste management.

Under the new strategy, supermarkets and other major producers of packaging waste could face a significantly greater bill for their packaging waste. Currently contributions from retailers and producers pay an average of £70 million a year. The new plan could see these contributions increase to between £500 million and £1 billion a year.

Such contributions would significantly help local authorities in managing household recycling waste, which currently costs around £700 million a year on average. Those payments would help to fund the improvements to the recycling infrastructure the UK urgently needs.

It has been reported that the Government is likely to implement up to four options to extend producer responsibility payments, which could include direct funds for waste collections paid to the local authorities by the producers, or introduction of a levy that would "trickle down" to local authorities.

Currently, the taxpayers pay up to 90% of the cost of recycled waste management, with the producers covering the remaining 10%. Once the new strategy is implemented, the contributions could interchange. This could also mean that the cost of produce packed in plastic could significantly increase, ultimately affecting the customers.

Further details are likely be set out in the Resources and Waste Strategy, due to be published before Christmas.

As part of their commitment to enhancing work-place mental health, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have updated their online first-aid guidance to include a section on managing mental health conditions.

The Government is looking to ensure that everyone has the same opportunity to progress in the workplace and achieve their potential, including those with mental health conditions, resulting in this update from HSE.

HSE suggests that following an employers first-aid needs assessment, it may be decided that it would be beneficial to have someone trained to identify and understand symptoms, and be able to support someone who might be experiencing a mental health issue.

They advise on methods in which mental health can be managed in the workplace and how the method can vary dependant on the business. These methods can range from:

  • providing information and training;
  • employing an occupational health professional;
  • appointing mental health trained first-aiders; and
  • implementing employee support programmes.

Mental health first-aid training courses can teach how to recognise warning signs of mental ill health, and develop skills to approach and support someone, whilst also keeping the first-aider safe. HSE advises that to find the relevant training would be through a Internet search in the area of your business.

HSE hopes their guidance will help employers to better understand the need to consider mental health with physical health when undertaking a needs assessment.

The guidance update comes after an open letter to the Government, co-ordinated by Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) England was backed by fifty employers. The letter to the Prime Minister called for the Health and Safety (First-Aid) Regulations SI 1981/917 to be amended to make "mental health first-aid" a legal requirement with the same statutory footing in workplaces as first-aid. 

For more information on this subject, see:

The Government has published its 2018 National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline, which is projected to be worth £600 billion over the next 10 years.

Infrastructure investments in the Pipeline include:

  • £28 billion National Roads fund announced in the 2018 Budget;
  • £20 million for East West Rail project;
  • smart motorway upgrades for the M6;
  • Hornsea Project One, the worlds largest offshore windfarm;
  • £71.5 million from the Transforming Cities Fund for transport projects in West Midlands Combined Authority;
  • up to £37 million for Northern Powerhouse Rail;
  • Transforming Cities Fund money providing additional funds for the Tees Valley, Liverpool and Great Manchester;
  • Bristol Deep Sea Container Terminal;
  • Oxford alleviation scheme;
  • A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme.

Ministers are encouraging the use of a modern approach to construction to ensure the manufacturing and construction behind such projects is as efficient as it can be. This includes manufacturing components in factories using the latest digital technology before being sent for assembly on construction sites.

For example, parts of the bridges being constructed for the A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme were manufactured in a factory which, the Government argues, means they were built more efficiently than using traditional construction techniques. The Government believes following this example will boost productivity and reduce waste by up to 90%.

Robert Jenrick, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury claimed this is stepping up the Government's commitment to digital infrastructure, use of data to "drive greater productivity and embrace new methods of construction".

He added that "with £600 billion of investment over the next decade, including the largest ever investment in our strategic road network, we are taking the long term action required to raise productivity and ensure the economy is fit for the future".

Tony Meggs, Chief Executive of the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA), added "we recognise there is significant momentum within the sector to scale up the adoption of more modern and innovative practices and it is the role of the IPA to help co-ordinate this approach across new infrastructure projects".

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The Environment Agency have published the Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Report this week, calling on businesses and communities to prepare for climate change.

The UK Climate Projections published on Monday 26 November show summer temperatures could be up to 5.4c hotter by 2070 depending on global emissions of greenhouse gases over the coming decades. It also noted sea levels in London could rise by up to 1.15 metres by 2100.

Emma Howard Boyd, Chair of the Environment Agency commented that the Projections are "further evidence that we will see more extreme weather in the future - we need to prepare and adapt now, climate change impacts are already being felt with record books being re-written."

The Report highlights:

  • severe heatwaves becoming a regular event in the future, at the end of the century over half of the UK may experience heatwave conditions every year;
  • demand for water with the rising temperature will require the need to reduce water abstraction, leakage and increase preparedness for drought;
  • climate change will reduce river flows, threatening aquatic ecosystems with a reduction in fish species;
  • buildings and infrastructure will need to be more resilient to flooding, some coastal communities are likely to be unviable;
  • more protected conservation areas will be needed to assist wildlife in migrating north as the climate changes, and action may be needed to relocate climate-sensitive species and control non-native species.

Operation teams from the Environment Agency successfully responded to a 330% increase in environmental incidents during the summer. Its six year flood investment programme is progressing to better protect 300,000 homes from flooding, with their world-leading flood forecasting and warning capability.

The Agency confirmed the Projections will help them prepare for the future, and through the Thames Estuary 2100 Plan, they are mitigating the increasing risk of tidal flooding in London and working with partners to look at alternative options for the future.

The Agency are due to launch their annual Flood Action campaign, urging the public to check their flood risk and plan the right action to take in order to protect themselves in a flood.

Boyd confirmed it is not too late to act and called for Government, business and communities to act together to mitigate the impacts of climate change and successfully adapt to a different future. She added "the Environment Agency cannot wall up the country, but we will be at the forefront - protecting communities, building resilience, and responding to incidents".

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Following the Consultation carried out by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, the Government have conformed their commitment to ban the use of combustible materials on the external walls of high-rise residential buildings.

The Consultation was part of the Government's response to the publication of Dame Judith Hackitt's review into the Building Regulations SI 2010/2214 after the Grenfell Tower fire.

The Consultation proposed a ban on the use of materials which do not meet class A1 or A2 from use in the external walls of high-rise residential buildings which are 18m or over. Such a ban would cover the complete wall assembly, including the inner leaf, insulation and the facade of cladding which provides the outermost layer of the external wall.

The Government's final policy approach will take into account responses received to that consultation as well as the advice received by the Building Regulation Advisory Committee. 

The conclusions drawn are:

  • the ban would apply to all new residential buildings above 18m in height;
  • strong support for the changes to be extended to include places where occupants are vulnerable and/or where people sleep, such as dormitories, student accommodation, registered care homes and hospitals above 18m;
  • the ban will also apply where building work is being carried out, including changes of use and material alterations;
  • the height of the building is to be measured from the lowest ground level adjoining the outside of an external wall to the finished floor surface of the top occupied storey;
  • the ban will limit materials to products achieving a European Classification of Class A1 or A2-s1,d0 when tested in accordance with BS EN 13501-1 :2007+A1:2009 which is in line with many other EU Member States;
  • exemptions would be required for components where non-combustible alternatives are not currently available.

The ban will be implemented through changes to the Building Regulations SI 2010/2214 and transitional provisions will be considered to allow the industry to adapt.

The Government has unveiled a new action plan for the first Carbon Capture, Usage and Storage (CCUS) project, which could be operational by the mid-2020s, as a part of the Clean Growth Strategy.

The plan was announced at a summit where more than 50 international leaders, CEOs of major energy companies, manufacturing businesses and finance firms gathered to discuss the next crucial steps for implementation of carbon capture technology.

If successfully implemented, such technology could capture carbon released by the energy-intensive industries, such as cement production, chemicals, steel and oil refining, diverting the CO2 emissions from being released to air to being re-used for industrial processes or locked in solid matter and stored underground, helping to reduce pollution and tackle climate change.

This plan commits the UK to:

  • set out how to enable the first CCUS facility in 2019;
  • invest £20 million in supporting the construction of CCUS technologies at industrial sites across the UK as part of the £45 million commitment to innovation;
  • invest up to £315 million in decarbonising industry; and
  • begin to work with the Oil and Gas Authority, industry and the Crown Estate and Crown Estate Scotland to identify the existing oil and gas infrastructure which could be transformed for CCUS projects.

The development of this plan follows last month's stark report of the IPCC which called for urgent global action to tackle climate change which highlighted that past carbon emissions have already caused 1°C of warming. That report made it clear that currently we are not on track to meet the Paris Agreement's temperature goal and we must be more ambitious to significantly reduce global greenhouse gas emissions to reach a net level of zero around the middle of the century.

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