Industry experts have welcomed the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee report on the Governments Waste Strategy 2007.
Last week, the cross-party committee of MPs that tracks and assesses the work of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, slammed Defra for focusing disproportionately on domestic waste and having vague ambitions in tackling commercial and industrial waste (see MRW story).
MPs called for Defra to give a clear lead on what it thinks the potential is for business to reduce its waste levels and increase its recycling rates.
Federation of Small Businesses environment and energy chairman John Holbrow told MRW:
The biggest volume of waste comes from business, commercial and industrial waste. The Government has belatedly been seen to be doing something about C&I waste but unfortunately with a general election around the corner nobody wants to do something that might cause a hiccup to the electorate.
The Government has to make it easier for small business, 4.2 million of them, to dispose of waste in a sensible orderly way. We have to convince the Waste & Resources Action Programme to help small businesses to allow them to use civic amenity sites - otherwise fly-tipping may increase.
The FSB recently did a survey that showed that 43% of our members would like to go green and recycle and re-use their materials but they are discouraged by Government to do so because there are no facilities for them to take them to.
Local authorities are not mandated by law to pick up trade waste and Holbrow said that councils may lose their support grants if they pick up more waste.
I have been prattling on about this for the last 10 years and it will take another 10 years for someone to take notice. They prattle on about climate change and saving the planet but nobody does anything to help.
Independent waste expert Peter Jones said that the report offered no surprises. He added: I, Chris Coggins [waste management expert] and a number of others have been pointing out for years that the UK is unique in Europe in classifying waste according to where it comes from rather than what it is.
Jones said that there has been confusion in the UK over the definition of municipal waste.
He explained: As a result of this, we are approaching an inevitable crunch point as deadline dates for compliance with the Landfill Directive run on the basis of mainland Europes definition, which increasingly forces us into the danger of non-compliance.
Defra is currently reviewing the definition of municipal waste and whether it can include much more commercial waste within the municipal waste category for which the Landfill Directive targets are set. It stated that this reflected the increased focus it wanted to place on commercial waste. The consultation of this review ends on 12 April.
Jones said that five issues needed to be addressed for a comprehensive waste strategy to happen in the UK.
- Defining what waste is and not where it comes from;
- Setting up a material flow mapping system on an online database so that anybody with a waste management license can map where waste has come from and where it is going;
- Streamlining management via producer responsibility. For example, local authorities get paid by glass manufacturers to collect glass;
- Adopting recommendations from Advantage West Midlands [regional development agency] on a planning package for new waste infrastructure to be adopted as soon as possible; and
- More of a focus on producer responsibility.