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MRW - Materials Recycling World - EMAP Publishing Limited Company

National audit office: Government must practise sustainable procurement

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Source: Materials Recycling Week

Government departments need to ensure that their procurement decisions minimise waste levels and increase recycling rates, according to a new report.

The National Audit Office report entitled Addressing the environmental impacts of Government procurement found that a number of Government departments are not yet on course to be practising sustainable procurement across their business by the end of 2009.

The report reviewed the largest procurers in central Government: the Department for Work and Pensions, HM Revenue & Customs, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Justice, and the NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency. Key findings show that most departments are not complying with environmental standards.

Figures show that in 2007/2008 the MoD produced 278,000 tonnes of waste, whereas, the DWP only produced 21,000 tonnes of waste and the NHS produced 400,000 tonnes of waste in 2004.

The MoD recycled 34 per cent of its waste and the DWP recycled 64 per cent.
In 2005 the Government set a target to be recognised by 2009 as one of the leading nations in the European Union in the sustainable procurement of goods and services.

A MoD spokesman told MRW: “The MoD welcomes the NAO report, which it believes is fair and balanced. We have made significant progress towards addressing the environmental and broader sustainability impacts of our procurement activities over the last couple of years.  This includes agreeing a voluntary Sustainable Procurement Charter with the majority of our key suppliers, and ensuring sustainability is considered prior to making investment decisions.  However, we recognise that more needs to be done and we are looking at how we can accelerate progress in this area. This includes re-prioritising our sustainable procurement programme, and working closely with industry through a recently formed joint MoD and Industry Sustainable Procurement Working Group.”

The report states that the MoJ has strengthened its drive to practise sustainable procurement. It has awarded a contract for a zero waste mattress programme for the prison service which would recycle used mattresses and pillows into carpet underlay. The contract will enable the department to reduce the 40,000 tonnes of mattresses it sends to landfill each year.

Overall, the report concluded that the NHS PSA was practising sustainable procurement across its business, with the DWP not far behind.

Committee of Public Accounts chairman Edward Leigh said: “The other three have a lot of catching up to do if they are to hit the 2009 deadline.

“Government can do much more to buy goods and services that are not only good for the environment but also save the taxpayer money. Examples of such green, cost cutting measures include ultra-efficient lighting in offices, software to switch off computers when not in use and sourcing electricity from combined heat and power.

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