UK Parliament

UK Parliament

Ministers must move on waste mountain reduction


Source: UK Parliament

Defra’s Waste Strategy has left England’s waste mountain with no clear targets for its reduction, and leaves 90% of waste without specific recycling targets. Government knowledge of commercial and industrial recycling rates is patchy and outdated. Instead, Defra’s Waste Strategy concentrates its efforts on achieving improved recycling rates in the domestic sector which accounts for only 10% of England’s waste.

Launching their report on the Waste Strategy for England 2007, the Chairman of the cross-party Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, the Rt Hon Michael Jack MP, said “Defra must give a clear lead on what it thinks the potential is for business to reduce its waste levels and increase its rates of recycling. At the same time it must encourage companies to take a completely new view of waste and see it as a valuable source of raw material which must not be squandered in these difficult economic times”.

Defra’s 2007 Strategy and its follow up reports are long on rhetoric but short on a detailed action plan to deliver a low waste society. This problem must be addressed if we are to seriously reduce the 330 million tonnes of materials we throw away each year at a cost of billions of pounds.

The EFRA Committee’s report praises householders for increasing their recycling levels to nearly 37% and urges the Government to set tougher recycling targets of 50% by 2015 and 60% by 2020. It should require local authorities to provide all householders with information each year on what happens to the waste they put out for recycling.  Councils must explain clearly to people what it costs to collect and dispose of each bin, bag or wheelie bin of waste.

Defra must now set out a more rational regime for charging for domestic waste collection and disposal, as well as helping local authorities to explain the benefits that arise from households reducing their waste volumes. To help end the so-called “Primark Effect”, which has resulted in significant increases in the amount of clothing being sent to landfill sites, Defra should consult manufacturers to develop standards and criteria for assessing the overall environmental impacts of different kinds of textiles so that more sustainable materials can be promoted.

In their detailed review of England’s Waste Strategy, MPs call on the Government to:

  • Re-evaluate the impact of cuts in funding for business resource efficiency programmes, such as those run by the Waste Resources Action Programme and the National Industrial Symbiosis Programme, and look at how such programmes can be expanded to help more organisations;
  • Require all retailers with a turn-over greater than £50 million to publish details of their waste prevention strategies and recycling performance;
  • Require food retailers and manufacturers to report, at least annually, on how much food waste they produce;
  • Set a target for mandatory collection of food waste, learning lessons from those authorities which already collect such refuse for beneficial use such as in anaerobic digestion plant, and ensure continued provision of advice, education and practical support, for example through reduced cost composting equipment.

To improve the regulatory regime the committee also call on ministers to:

  • Increase the funding provided for the enforcement of waste regulation;
  • Encourage greater re-use or recycling of wastes by raising the thresholds for inclusion in the Environmental Permitting regime, particularly in the metals sector;
  • Re-examine the case for imposing lower levels of duty on waste-derived fuel oil;
  • Ensure that local authorities are using their available powers fully to discharge their responsibilities to prevent fly-tipping and littering;
  • Remove impediments to full intelligence sharing between the Environment Agency and other enforcement agencies to enable improved targeting of illegal waste export;
  • Evaluate the practicalities of applying a small “clean up” levy to products such as cigarettes, drinks and confectionary, whose packaging contributes the largest volumes of litter, to support work by local authorities to clean up their neighbourhoods.

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