Eunomia reveals model for calculating litter costs

Eunomia has announced the creation of a model designed to calculate the cost of handling litter, which it will use to inform discussions of how this financial burden can be shifted from local authorities to packaging producers.

Produced in collaboration with the Waste and Resources Action Plan (WRAP), the model not only provides an estimate of the total costs incurred by litter clean-up operations across the country, but it also breaks down the figure into the costs associated with managing the different types of material once they end up discarded.

Litter modelAccording to the framework, litter costs the UK approximately £660 million annually, the brunt of which falls upon local authorities to finance. Packaging constitutes over half of this figure, with the Government proposing the introduction of litter costs into an extended producer responsibility (EPR) scheme in order to ensure that the ‘polluter pays principle’, rather than forcing municipal bodies to pick up the slack.

Unlike traditional audits of street cleaning costs, which often incorporate other management activities separate to litter in their financial projections – including fly-tipping, graffiti, weeds, detritus, verge cutting, street furniture and abandoned vehicles – Eunomia asserts that its model takes into account the count, weight and volume of the litter studied. The consultancy also claims that the model is ‘applicable to any item that has been categorised in waste composition data’.

Eunomia hopes that the standardisation of calculating litter costs will support a consensus amongst producers on costs, which should facilitate the expansion of EPR schemes across the nation. The body goes on to state that this will see manufacturers additionally benefit, through the provision of transparency – they will be able to see that they are not being overcharged by the system for the costs incurred when their products are littered.

Readily applicable beyond the UK, according to Eunomia, the consultancy attests that the model will be ‘particularly relevant’ within the EU, where the Single Use Plastics Directive (SUPD) is in effect. This legislation, like that proposed by the UK Government, requires producers to cover litter costs for certain items of packaging through an EPR framework.

Chiarina Darrah, Senior Consultant at Eunomia, commented: “It feels really good to see the headway being made in the UK and the EU on getting the costs of litter redistributed more fairly in society. This will help get the right stakeholders round the table to do something about the problem. As most marine litter is terrestrial litter first, this is a really effective juncture at which to address it – on land!”

Billy Harris, Senior Analyst at WRAP, said: “This is an innovative piece of work that represents a major step towards understanding the cost of litter management to UK local authorities and other statutory bodies. It will play an important role in informing the debate around litter costs in the context of Extended Producer Responsibility.”