Industry figures have welcomed the Government’s decision to undertake a review of waste policy, announced by the environment secretary Caroline Spelman last week.
The waste review will focus on creating a zero-waste economy, increasing public awareness about waste, focusing more on commercial and industrial waste, reducing retailers’ food waste and packaging and central government working with local government to implement policy.
According to Spelman, the review is “fundamental” because, “continuing with the current approaches at the current pace is something we can’t afford either environmentally or economically”.
A spokesman for waste management company Shanks said: “We welcome the review, particularly in terms of the current economic climate. A focus on sustainability should remain a priority for the Government. We particularly welcome the fact that the review will embrace other departments, such as DECC, that have a part to play in terms of creating waste infrastructure.”
Chartered Institution of Wastes Management chief executive Steve Lee agreed that working with other departments was important. He commented: “[Spelman] has rightly identified that this industry is changing and faces a new set of challenges, including future infrastructure needs, better communication with consumers and a wider focus that embraces commercial and industrial waste.
“We also welcome the intention by Defra to work more closely with key stakeholders and relevant Government departments, something the CIWM has been calling for, and the recognition of the role our sector will play in helping to create a ‘leaner, greener economy’.”
Charity Waste Watch senior consultant Mike Webster said he “strongly” approved of the Government’s zero-waste ambitions. He added: “Zero landfill does not equate to zero waste and zero landfill must also not lead to the next cheapest disposal option being adopted. But the overriding objective of waste policy must be to stimulate reuse and recycling above disposal. Waste Watch welcomes ongoing work by the Waste & Resources Action Programme to produce a ‘matrix’ of preferred options for different waste types as a basis for guidance on implementing the waste hierarchy.”
Planning was seen to be an important point to tackle by Viridor chief executive Colin Drummond. He said: “What any review must avoid is causing further delays to progress in this essential area. We have at least £600m of readily financeable investment currently held up in the planning system. Our main obstacle to investment remains an unresponsive and inadequate planning system, and we look forward to decisive progress and solutions in this key area.”
However, Labour environment campaign Sera said the areas Spelman is covering are those set in motion by the Labour Government. Its waste coordinator Philippa Roberts added:“While the 2007 Waste Strategy focused on moving away from waste management to resource management, in line with a more sustainable ‘One Planet’ future, the current review suggests that policy will be moving back to a focus on waste as a problem, rather than a resource. In this respect, it is a step backwards. We know the industry still has some distance to travel but the current investment decisions and infrastructure developments are medium terms plans that should not be disrupted by a change in direction for changes sake.”