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Waste prevention plan slammed as a ‘missed opportunity’

A proposed waste prevention programme for England has been strongly criticised by the waste management and recycling industry for a lack of ambition, objectives, and measurable goals.

The draft plan was published by Defra on 5 August as the department launched a second consultation on the issue that focused on some proposed roles and responsibilities for the Government, local authorities, businesses and individuals.

“[The plan] represents a significant missed opportunity to stitch together Government thinking on resources in the round,” said CIWM chief executive Steve Lee. “At a strategic level, the plan fails to deliver the necessary shift away from narrow waste-focused thinking to a broader vision encompassing resource efficiency and circular economics.”

Tim Burns, evidence and policy manager at Keep Britain Tidy said that the programme resembled more a collection of suggested roles for different stakeholders under a collective vision, rather than a coherent plan or strategy.

“Sadly, this is a missed opportunity for the environment, society and a sustainable economy that we do not believe it will transform waste prevention and resource security in England,” he said.

Resource Association chief executive Ray Georgeson echoed: “It is such a shame, as yet again we miss a great opportunity to be ambitious in our approach to waste and resources.”

Chief executive of Sita UK and ESA chairman tweeted:

Lack of objectives

Lee noted that at a practical level the plan lacked “any concrete and measurable objectives and actions”.

This view was echoed by the reuse organisation Furniture Re-use Network (FRN), whose chief executive Craig Anderson said: “We need objectives and actions based on the sector’s work to date, but there is a complete absence of any such mechanisms and sadly only more emphasis being placed on soft-touch concepts, metrics and data.”

CIWM and the Resource Association noted that some of the approaches to waste prevention evaluated in previous rounds of discussions had not been included in the draft. These elements included: Green taxation, product policy and standards, producer responsibility, and resource security.

Industry organisations expressed concern that the proposed programme could not meet the requirements of the European Commission Waste Framework Directive, which mandates that EU member states need to have a waste prevention plan in place by December 2013.

However, Phil Conran, director at consultancy 360 Environmental, said that despite being “thin on new proposals”, the draft plan contained the positive proposal to measure waste prevention through two new metrics for household and business waste.

For households waste would be measured as waste arisings (Mt) per unit of household final consumption expenditure, and for commercial and industrial, and construction and demolition waste it would be measured as waste arisings (Mt) per unit of Gross Value Added (GVA).

Keep Britain Tidy also welcomed parts to the programme to do with data, saying “A recognition that generation of evidence, metrics and data on the prevention, flow and fate of different waste streams is vital”.

Roles of Government and reuse organisations

CIWM pointed out that the Government seemed to play only a marginal part in Defra’s vision. “The proposed role for Government appears to be to stand on the sidelines while forward thinking businesses take the initiative and local authorities and third sector organisations struggle with more ambition than resources,” said Lee.

Conran and FRN’s Anderson also stressed that little emphasis had been put on the importance of supporting the third sector. Anderson said: “It is very apparent that the Government is putting more emphasis on the fact that it wants to be confident that others will do the job for them with little direction or support.”

“What is telling from the number of pages dedicated to different sectors is that the majority of stakeholders receive three to four pages each; the actual operators of reuse and waste prevention receive half a page only,” he added.

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