The Queen spotlighted environmental concerns in her speech at the House of Lords yesterday (14 October), following a three-day closure of Parliament.
Alluding to the long-awaited Environment Bill, which is set to be brought forward in the next parliamentary session, she said: “For the first time, environmental principles will be enshrined in law”.
Among other things, the Bill is intended to extend producer responsibility, ensuring a consistent approach to recycling and introducing deposit return schemes and more effective litter enforcement.
The Queen spoke of the government’s plans to set up a National Infrastructure Strategy, which is expected to make the UK’s energy system more sustainable, among other aims.
She also mentioned the introduction of legally binding environmental improvement targets and an independent regulator, the Office for Environmental Protection (OEP), to scrutinise environmental policy and law, investigate complaints and take enforcement action.
Overall, the Bill seeks to advance a circular economy, something with implications for the print and packaging sector.
Responding to the Queen’s Speech, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, Helen Dickinson OBE, said: “We welcome the government’s commitment to sustainability, and support efforts towards a circular, zero-waste economy in the UK.
“We were particularly encouraged by measures to improve the consistency of recycling schemes in England, however, it is essential that such measures are rolled out across the whole of the UK.
“This way consumers know which packaging can be recycled whether they’re in Lands’ End or John o’ Groats.”
She continued: “Retailers know they have a responsibility to contribute more directly towards the costs of recycling and recovering packaging through a reformed Extended Producer Responsibility scheme.”
The environmental community, too, applauded the agenda laid out in the speech but pointed to the need for a committed collaboration between industry, government, and the public.
Jacob Hayler, executive director of the Environmental Services Association (ESA), said: “Major new reforms are coming which will have a profound impact on producers and the way things are made; how we collect materials when they are discarded; how we treat those materials and how waste services are funded.
“The Environment Bill must provide the new legislative framework which will underpin this next phase of investment.”