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Waste prevention consultation begins

Defra’s call for evidence to help frame the Waste Prevention Programme for England has been published.

The call for evidence process explores the challenges and opportunities to waste prevention, as well as inviting views and information.

The programme was promised as part of the Government’s waste policy review 2011, and fulfills the requirement of the revised Waste Framework Directive (rWFD) for member states of the EU to treat prevention of waste as a priority.

The resulting waste prevention policy document is due to be published in December 2013.

In the consultation, document Defra describes waste prevention policy as a priority for the department because it “delivers the best environmental and economic outcome, and is key to moving towards a more sustainable economy”.

Defra states that ‘waste prevention’ can include designing products for durability and ease of repair, use of fewer hazardous resources, and also ensuring reuse services are available.

Priority sectors that have been identified by Defra for waste prevention and reuse are: food, textiles, construction and demolition (C&D), chemicals and healthcare, paper and card, furniture and bulky household items, and electronic and electrical equipment (WEEE).

According to Defra’s figures, waste prevention could be worth around £17bn to UK businesses. Some businesses, charities and social enterprises are already successfully engaged in waste prevention and reuse activity.

Further opportunity could arise from a shift towards service-based business models and a focus on innovative design and production techniques, Defra states.

However, the consultation document also highlights barriers to waste prevention, such as market failures, when the real costs of products, including disposal, are not realised. Lack of financial or staffing resources can also obstruct initial investment in waste prevention. And, the report says, “there may be little financial incentive to take preventative action” for consumers.

The consultation period ends on 29 April.

Priority areas for waste prevention

  • Around 15 million tonnes (Mt) of food and drink are wasted per year, of which more than 60% of this is ‘avoidable’. Waste in the UK food industry is esimated at being worth £12bn a year.
  • Approximately 2.2Mt of textiles are thrown away each year. Around £140m worth of clothing goes to landfill every year.
  • C&D waste constitutes 44% of waste produced in England.
  • Between now and 2020 the UK will get rid of 12Mt of WEEE. In this amount of WEEE, there is £1bn of recoverable palladium and £350m indium. Last year’s electrical and electronic purchases in the UK contained £350m gold.
  • 25% of C&I waste, and 17% of household waste, is paper and card.
  • The chemicals and non-metallic minerals sector generated 3.8Mt of waste in 2009, which was 8% of C&I waste arisings.
  • Householders could benefit from £320m per year if they sold furniture for reuse exchange and avoided the costs of buying new items.





Readers' comments (2)

  • Brendan Palmer

    While it is not possible to prevent the movement of WEEE from the UK for processing within the EU, the exporting of WEEE for processing outside the EU should be banned or at least some form of levy imposed to reflect the fact that valuable recoverable raw materials are been exported for the short term gain of a few, while the wider economy has a long term cost to re-import either the raw materials recovered, or manufactured goods containing those raw materials.

    It is time the connection between the 12% unemployment across the EU was directly connected to the practice of exporting processes to low cost third world countries, which adds value to the bottom line of a few companies but leaves the taxpayer with the cost of looking after both the financial and social consequences of the unemployment this creates.

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  • Enda Kiernan

    Much more needs to be done to drive material up the hierarchy. The exportation of WEEE outside the EU should be stopped for those reasons iterated by other comments. The conversion of the energy value / resource value of food waste in terms of either gas or electricity and the fertiliser value of the residue either in terms of digestate or compost also needs rather radical approaches. Whilst the UK waste industry congratulates itself for 100 AD plants, compare this to Germany where in excess of 7000 plants exist. There is a need to focus on the creation of resource parks for waste. There is also a rather need to examine the reasons why so much SRF is leaving the UK & Ireland which is impacting not only on infrastructural development and longer term treatment capacity but also on security of energy supply!

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