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'Multiple behaviour' changes necessary for waste prevention

Major figures in the waste management sector have gathered together to discuss England’s Waste Prevention Plan.

The European Commission Waste Framework Directive made it obligatory for EU member states to have a plan in place by December 2013.

Some of the key moments from the Westminster Energy, Environment & Transport Forum Keynote Seminar on implementing the Waste Prevention Programme and moving towards a ‘zero waste’ economy:

Food waste

Marcus Gover

In a keynote speech, Marcus Gover (left), director of sustainable products and services systems at WRAP, said: “Household food waste is a top priority for WRAP.”

Figures from WRAP showed that disposal of food waste was at a far higher level compared to disposal of other waste streams.

David Fell, Brook Lyndhurst director, said: “Food waste is the biggest challenge in many respects. People feel ashamed.”

He added that consumers don’t want to admit to the waste they create as food is so elemental.

Waste prevention and reuse

Gover praised the significant increase in recycling levels over the last 10 years in the UK, but regarding the Waste Prevention Plan for England he said: “We are only just starting on waste prevention.”

Fell said successful waste prevention is down to “multiple behaviour” changes. He added that consumers are not aware of the circular possibilities of recycling and waste prevention and rarely understand how preventative waste cycles fit together.

Wayne Hubbard, chief operating officer at the London Waste and Recycling Board, said the most pressing concern for the Waste Prevention Plan was “how to finance reuse businesses”.

Dan Cooke, Viridor director of external affairs, said that recycling still means the same thing as waste prevention to the public and this is a barrier to reuse schemes.

He added that effective waste prevention would benefit from a specific time scale whether it be for 20, 30 or even 50 years down the line.

Discussing the lack of targets set for the Plan, he said that the Social Value Act could be used more effectively during the procurement process to increase reuse.

Matthew Spencer, Green Alliance director, said the UK needed more reuse facilities and warned that Defra’s Plan “may soon look out of date”.

He also warned that the UK is vulnerable to swings in levels of resource availability and the Plan was a missed opportunity to address this problem.

Plastic bag levy

Mark Pawsey MP, a member of the Communities and Local Government Committee, discussed the introduction of a 5p plastic bag levy in England. Referring to UK countries, which have already introduced a levy (Northern Ireland and Wales), he warned: “Where plastic bags have been taxed, sales of bin liners have gone up massively.”

Last Summer MRW interviewed Lord Robert Winston about the behaviour changes necessary to increase recycling.


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