How will an EU exit affect the UK waste and recycling industry?

European Union

Riverside’s managing director Jonathan Oldfield considers the likely impact on the waste and recycling industry, if Britain’s membership of the European Union comes to an end…

“Is Britain better off in or out of the EU? I’d love to get hold of Google’s statistics in a few months’ time, to learn how many people have explored this much-debated question.

Some think tank reports have suggested there’ll be an adverse impact on the UK economy if we exit. Conversely other business leaders have claimed we’ll have a new lease of life, so to speak, if we’re released from unreformed EU bureaucracy.

At this stage, I struggle to have a clear cut view on ‘should we stay or should we go?’ I think we need to maintain an open mind, if possible, until we hear the outcome of David Cameron’s renegotiation attempts. Certainly, I’d encourage people to do their research before they cast their vote – this isn’t a decision to be made lightly.

If we do leave, how will the UK’s waste and recycling industry be affected? That is also tough to predict, as much depends on the policy our detached Government develops moving forward.

Generally, waste and recycling legislation has been driven by Europe, and on many occasions we’ve been slow to keep pace with the rest of the EU. I’m concerned that, if we’re no longer obligated to work towards the targets that have encouraged so much progress to date, we could lose our way. We’re certainly far from perfect.

That said, proactive domestic politics have resulted in significantly improved sustainability in Scotland for example. The EU surely cannot take full credit for that. Yes directives give… direction, but the role of our own government and the commitment of businesses and the public need to be recognised too.

Whilst waste compliance specialist ecosurety is vocally in favour of the UK remaining in Europe, they’ve also been quoted as saying that the waste and recycling industry is unlikely to be affected, regardless of the vote.

If we do leave, I can’t see an abundance of red tape coming into force, certainly not in the short term. And a separation would surely take years to truly be realised, which means our policies may remain untouched for a little while.


Maybe it’s all a red herring. Perhaps it’s too early to say. I just hope we remember the value of the resources at our fingertips, and do our utmost to safeguard them.