Resource Use

England publishes waste prevention programme

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has today (11 December) published a National Waste Prevention Programme (NWPP) for England.

Under the European Commission’s revised Waste Framework Directive (rWFD), all member states have to ‘develop National Waste Prevention Programmes concentrating on the key environmental impacts and taking into account the whole life-cycle of products and materials’ by 12 December 2013. (The EC’s handbook on NWPPs states, however, that the ‘planning and the decision’ of the programme have to be finalised at this date, but not the ‘implementation and evaluation’.)

Responses to an earlier consultation and call for evidence were reportedly used to finalise England’s plan, ‘Prevention is better than cure: The role of waste prevention in moving to a more resource efficient economy’.

The programme aims to:

  • help businesses ‘understand and take advantage’ of the savings they can make by using resources efficiently and preventing waste;
  • ‘make it easier’ for people to find out how to reduce their waste, and how to reuse items they no longer want; and
  • help organisations and people ‘make the most’ of opportunities to save money by reducing waste.

According to the government, businesses can make £18 billion in annual savings by taking 'simple steps' to produce less waste, while reusing products, such as household appliances and furniture, could save households £1 billion each year and 'help create jobs'.

Launching the plan this morning, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Water, Forestry, Rural Affairs and Resource Management, Dan Rogerson said: "Preventing waste from being produced in the first place is not only good for the environment, but for the economy and household budgets too.

"That’s why we are making it easier for people to find out where they can get things repaired or pass on things they no longer use.

"Everyone has a role to play in reducing waste and I want to see businesses helping consumers and the environment by designing products to last longer and using resources better."

WPP details for England

The plan outlines that in order to make the best use of resources, there will be an emphasis on ‘designing out waste’ from products, offering ‘alternative business models’ and delivering ‘new and improved products and services’.

To do this, government has said it will deliver a range of actions, including:

  • developing a Sustainable Electricals Action Plan (through WRAP), aimed at ‘catalysing sector action and seeking commitment on design for longer life’, and increased technical durability. It is hoped this will help businesses develop service models which ‘keep products in circulation for longer, such as trade-in for resale, rental and leasing’;
  • developing a £800,000, two-year scheme to support communities (working in partnership with local businesses, authorities and civil society groups) to take forward innovative waste prevention, reuse and repair actions in their local areas;
  • creating, through WRAP, a web-based postcode locator to provide a ‘practical tool’ to enable householders to find their local reuse and repair services’;
  • making a standard for reuse;
  • supporting ‘innovation in design’ through the Technology Strategy Board’s (TSB) investment of up to £5 million in ‘collaborative research and development’ and £1.5 million in overcoming ‘design challenges for a circular economy competition’;
  • raising awareness of resource-efficient business models and supply chain innovations through a £900,000 programme of ‘Action Based Research’ pilots (with WRAP running trials of take-back schemes and leasing/hiring schemes);
  • developing a suite of metrics by the end of 2014 to help monitor progress on waste prevention, enabling consistent measurement of, for example, financial, environmental and social impacts, and levels of engagement; and
  • bringing waste prevention and reuse criteria within Government Buying Standards and pilot a ‘cross-government scheme to enable exchange and reuse of goods across departments’.

Measuring progress

To monitor progress, government says it will ‘measure changes in overall waste arisings, assess the environmental impacts of this waste and also consider how these factors relate to changes in the resource efficiency of the economy’.

It will also measure the amount of waste produced per unit of economic activity to ‘assess efficiency within the economy, and provide an insight into the link between waste arisings and the environmental impacts associated with the generation of waste for a given level of economic activity’.

The plan outlines that for household waste government will also ‘consider’ measures of household expenditure or income, which can be used to show waste arisings (in million tonnes) per unit of ‘household economic activity’.

Commercial and industrial waste, as well as construction and demolition waste, will be measured in waste arisings (in million tonnes) per unit gross value added (GVA) in constant price (volume) terms.

The report reads: ‘We recognise that measuring waste on the basis of weight does not fully reflect the environmental impacts or the financial cost of the waste generated and results in a bias towards action on heavier wastes.

‘Carbon factors are available for most waste types as a measure of environmental impacts and we will assess the waste generated in the form of carbon equivalent per unit economic activity. Going forward, we also intend to assess how we could measure wider environmental impacts.’

It adds that while GVA data (for England only) can be estimated at ‘broad sectoral level’ (and therefore be used to assess the relationship between economic activity and waste prevention for individual sectors), ‘additional metrics’ (which allow measurement of, for example, environmental or social impact and levels of engagement), will be considered in partnership with relevant organisations to give a suite of indicators where appropriate.

The government proposes to use 2009 as a benchmark year against which to measure progress. This is the latest year for which complete data on the waste arising categories noted above is currently available.

‘Government’s role must be to get out of people’s hair’

Writing in the foreword to the plan, Rogerson, said: ‘Global population growth, increasing consumer demand and pressure on limited resources mean that we must all focus on realising the opportunities from sustainable growth. We need to make better and more efficient use of the increasingly valuable resources available to us. I want to see a world where substantially less waste is created across the economy, delivering real financial, environmental and social benefits.

‘We need to develop further the concept of a circular economy, where one person’s waste becomes another’s valuable resource. Making the changes needed may require innovation and creative thinking but it is vitally important because of the benefits they can bring.’

Rogerson reiterated that waste prevention should be led by business rather than government (as outlined in his first letter to the industry, in which he said government will be ‘stepping back’ on waste from 2014), saying: ‘Government’s role must be to get out of people’s hair; to set the conditions and guidelines that allow the market, businesses, local authorities and people to make the changes that will propel us towards a more circular and sustainable economy. It hinges on everyone playing their part, building partnerships to seize the opportunities that exist.

‘This Programme is a step on the path. It considers not just the role for government, but also the part that businesses, the wider public sector and civil society must also play. I look forward to seeing reactions from right across society.’

Writing on social media outlet Twitter, Dr Colin Church, Director for Resource and Waste, Atmosphere, and Sustainability at Defra, said that the department will be 'publishing [a] report on waste prevention marginal abatement cost curve work later this winter'. 

Wales published its WPP last week and Scotland launched its programme in October. Northern Ireland has yet to release its NWPP.

Read ‘Prevention is better than cure: The role of waste prevention in moving to a more resource efficient economy’ or the waste and resources industry's reaction to the plan.