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Call for Defra to "urgently" tackle commercial and industrial waste

The Governments Waste Strategy 2007 has been slammed for focusing disproportionately on domestic waste and having vague ambitions in tackling commercial and industrial waste, according to a new report by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee.

EFRA is a cross-party select committee that tracks and assesses the work of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

In its review entitled Waste Strategy for England 2007, the report states that domestic waste contributes less than 10 per cent of all waste but the Waste Strategy omits firm targets for the C&I sectors which produce around a quarter of all waste. It urges Defra to rectify this urgently in order for the data gap to be plugged by utilising the information routinely collected and enable progress to be monitored.

Launching the report, EFRA Select Committee chairman 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 times.

Defra recently published a statement on its aims to tackle C&I waste in October 2009. The Committee explains that Defras C&I statement is rich in rhetoric but extremely thin on detailed proposals. It also states that the statement contains no action plan for assessing the potential level of waste reduction achievable in these sectors, nor does it specify how and by when it will apply a targeted approach to improve recycling levels or reductions in the amount of material sent to landfill sites from these waste streams.

The MPs remain unconvinced that current policies for tackling C&I waste are sufficiently robust to drive maximum improvement in these sectors. It urges Defra to hold an urgent roundtable meeting with representatives from the C&I industry to develop waste policies.

The study also praises householders for increasing their recycling levels to nearly 37 per cent and urges Defra to raise its recycling targets to 50 per cent by 2015 and 60 per cent by 2020. It also calls on local authorities to provide all householders with information each year on what they put out for recycling. Councils must explain to people what it costs to collect and dispose of each bin or bag of wheelie bin of waste.

The MPs argue that Defra must set out a more rational regime for charging for domestic waste collection and disposal, as well as helping councils to explain the benefits that arise from households reducing their waste volumes.

However, the MPs welcome Defras announcement that Defra will consult in 2010 on banning certain substances from landfill but believes it should have the courage of its convictions and implement this change by 2015.

In response to the criticisms a Defra spokeswoman said:
We are grateful to the committee for their work on this report.  We are pleased that they recognise the progress we have made on a range of waste issues such as household recycling, single-use carrier bags, and proposals to ban some materials from landfill. The report contains some interesting proposals which we will examine in detail and respond to in full in due course.

We recognise that more needs to be done to tackle commercial and industrial waste and last October we set out our initial plans to do just this.  Like household waste, reducing waste from businesses cant be done overnight - we want to see household, commercial and industrial waste of similar types being treated in the same way to save money and reduce waste to landfill. In the meantime producers of commercial and industrial waste must pay the landfill tax just like everyone else, and we have targets in place such as a target to halve construction waste to landfill by 2012.

Environmental Services Association Dirk Hazell told MRW: The report is better than most commentary on the sector but is not without editorial infelicity. For example, the first page of the summary refers to the UK generating 330 million tonnes of waste while paragraph one refers to England generating more than 330 million tonnes.It might have been helpful if the Report had better connected more of its recommendations to underlying evidence and European Union legal drivers.

However, he added that the report may help to inspire post-election debate and it identifies pertinent themes such as the redefinition of municipal waste and the emerging focus on bio-waste.

The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management welcomes the report but in statement outlined that it would have liked the committee to go further and include the issue of waste prevention and how to make best use of our resources.


MPs also 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 Nation Industrial Symbiosis Programme;
  • Require food retailers and manufacturers to report, at least annually, on how much food waste they produce; and
  • Set mandatory target for food waste.

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