Keep Britain Tidy has called for a change in public attitudes to waste to match the general disapproval shown towards litter.
The campaign group has produced its first report on waste management,No Time to Waste (file right), and has called for a new system for measuring the use of resources to improve waste prevention and increase reuse and remanufacturing.
It noted that only the volume of material collected for recycling was measured, not the amount actually recycled or its environmental benefit.
Society remained “locked in a mindset that views waste as separate from our consumption of resources and accounts for them in unrelated statistics,” said the organisation.
It would not be possible to make the necessary move from management of waste to management of resources without a better understanding of how resources flow through our society, achieved through “a different system for measuring our use of resources”.
The paper noted that almost 15m tonnes of food are thrown away in the UK every year, and that electrical goods with a reuse value of some £220m are taken to recycling sites.
Recycling has reached a plateau, the charity said, with the annual rate of increase slowing to 0.2% over the past three years, putting England at risk of missing its legally-binding household recycling target of 50% for 2020.
Keep Britain Tidy chief executive Phil Barton said: “Clear evidence shows that we are living beyond our means on a planet, using resources we will never be able to replace.
“We, governments, businesses and people urgently need to change our ways to stop being wasteful and shift as a nation to become resourceful.”
Keep Britain Tidy was originally largely focused on litter prevention but since merging with Waste Watch in 2011 it has shifted to waste reduction and recycling.
Barton said: “Whilst our reputation for litter is built on our belief that where we live matters, our passion to tackle wasteful behaviour is born of our belief that how we live matters even more.”