WRAP chief executive Liz Goodwin has told the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) Committee that the UK is missing “a massive economic story” by sending waste abroad and to landfill.
She said it was “dreadful” that so much valuable material was exported or buried and sought “more leadership from Government and a more concerted effort” from different bodies and departments to address the problem.
Input from the Treasury would be key, she explained, as that would mean that the issue of treating waste as a resource would become more mainstream.
Goodwin told MPs: “As a country, we are missing the big trick. If you talk to the officials at Defra they are aware of that.”
She told the panel that there was a “significant risk” that England would not meet the 2020 recycling target of 50%. Despite making good progress in recycling in the past, she said, the rate in England had been slowing down over the last three years.
She said that “a concerted effort” from Defra, WRAP, local authorities, the industry and the general public was needed to hit the 50%.
Goodwin told the committee that recycling had “gone off the radar” because of the reduction in local authority budgets, the removal of statutory recycling targets and “a general drop-off in communications, which means that householders are not getting the same information”.
She added: “We’re having a lot of discussions with Defra on how we could kick start the programme. We need to do more to communicate with the public. Only 24% of householders are recycling properly so we need to give them clearer messages.”
According to WRAP’s research, Goodwin said that there are four reasons why people do not recycle – their situation, their attitude towards recycling, their behaviour and whether they have enough knowledge about it.
“I do think that people are very confused about what they can and can’t recycle,” she added.
Looking further ahead to the 70% target that is proposed for 2030, she warned: “The 70% target will be very difficult. We have one or two local authorities getting close to 70% at the moment but other than that it will be incredibly difficult.”