Addressing an audience of local authorities and the waste industry, Benn said: “We need to rethink how we view and treat waste in the UK. Why do we send valuable items like aluminium and food waste to landfill when we can turn them into new cans and renewable energy? Why use more resources than we need to in manufacturing? We must now work together to build a zero waste nation – where we reduce the resources we use, re-use and recycle all that we can and only landfill things that have absolutely no other use.
“To do this all of us - Government, local authorities, businesses and consumers – must do our bit. And we must make this moment the turning point on our journey to eliminate wasteful waste.”
Benn wants England to halve the amount of waste going to landfill in the next ten years and early next year the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will consult on what recyclable and compostable items should be banned from landfill and how a ban will work.
Six new zero waste places will be created in parts of Shropshire, Dorchester, Brixton, Newham, Hoxton and Suffolk to develop innovative ideas to cut waste in the home, workplace and community.
A new zero waste places standard for local authorities will also be created to recognise areas which are going above and beyond national waste targets while supporting them with small grants for further development.
Benn said: “Using new technologies will help us to re-use things, for example anaerobic digestion that creates energy from food and farm waste. And businesses can apply the technology at their fingertips to design innovative products that use less resources or contain recycled materials.
“In ten years time 75 per cent of household waste will either be recycled or used for energy, and over time this figure will increase even further. Aiming for zero waste is the way we have to think to get us where we need to be.”
The Government also expects local authorities to offer a full collection service for all recyclable items by 2020. This should include paper, card, cans glass and plastic bottles, food and packaging.
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government John Denham added: 'If we continue to send recyclable or compostable waste to landfill we are missing a major opportunity to generate heat and energy and missing an opportunity to turn that waste into money. We can save planet whilst keeping money in resident’s pockets.”
“I have recently set out ambitions for councils to play a bigger role in tackling climate change and thinking more creatively about waste is just one way to unlock that potential.”
As part of the Government’s ambitious plans to create a zero waste nation it has also published its aims and actions for commercial and industrial waste in England. This will help businesses to use resources more efficiently and encourage them to think about what they do with their waste as well as delivering benefits for the environment. Actions cover four areas: helping business; working with the waste management industry; plugging the data gap; and encouraging innovative approaches.