CIWM members will welcome the fact that England’s important Waste Prevention Programme has been completed within the EU deadline and that the sector, and those around us, can now get to grips with it.
Some elements of the programme are particularly welcome, most notably the significant amount of supporting information and the signal of leadership from government in tackling blockages to investment in more resource efficient business models. However, without further work, it will not deliver the step change in society’s attitudes to resources and waste that is needed.
CIWM sounded alarm bells during the Summer consultation, particularly with regard to the rather distant role envisaged for government in this space, and most of those concerns remain. We wanted to see English Government adopt a leading role in Europe, working for common standards and exploring far-reaching resource efficiency measures including taxation, new product standards, and producer responsibility mechanisms. But we see none of this in the programme.
There is still nothing on reduction targets or new approaches to measurement
We wanted common and appropriate data collection and the measurement of resource flows and impacts rather than counting recycled tonnes. We see a commitment to developing metrics by the end of next year and CIWM will commit to support in that vital work, but crucially there is still nothing on reduction targets or new approaches to measurement.
We wanted clear leadership by government in terms of communications to provide strong overarching messages and underpin awareness raising activities by the wide range of partners involved in waste prevention. We see a nod in that direction but not much more. And we asked for clear signals on how waste prevention and its offspring - resource efficiency and security - will be co-ordinated between government departments and tied in to economic development and planning at a larger than local level. If we are to make proper headway in waste prevention rather than doing the minimum to satisfy Waste Framework Directive requirements, we will need to see action on all of the above.
It is time for us to learn and improve collectively rather than turning our backs
It would be wrong to criticise the programme for containing no actions, but there is little new there either. WRAP will develop a Sustainable Electricals Action Plan which we welcome, and the programme seems to confirm that, even though there is a current consultation on the issue, the government has already decided to introduce a 5p single use carrier bag tax. There is also new money - albeit only £800,000 - to support development of community action on waste prevention re-use and repair. After that, most of the other initiatives and funding streams put forward in the programme are already in place.
I suspect that many in the industry will be disappointed with this Waste Prevention Programme, but we must remember that waste prevention and resource efficiency are no less important for a lack-lustre national programme. This industry, together with its new partners elsewhere in the resources cycle, needs to commit to working on the basics such as data gathering and analysis, as well as driving for early wins in areas such as re-use.
This is a programme we hope will be refined and improved in the light of experience and new information, particularly from Wales and Scotland who have taken a more proactive and ambitious approach. It is time for us to learn and improve collectively rather than turning our backs because we don’t see everything we wanted in version 1.0.