Smarter use of waste data is needed to handle a shift in consumer behaviour during the next 30 years, according to a report by the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM).
Digital technology and consumer trends, written by consultant John Twitchen, suggests that consumer behaviour and expectations will change significantly in the next few years due to technological and digital innovation.
It says more UK consumers prefer to shop online than in many other countries, with online grocery sales increasing and new retailers driving innovation and competition.
The ’internet of things’ and new ways of purchasing food using pre-measured ingredients are two examples of innovations listed.
To respond to these changes, the report recommends better use of data by retailers and the waste industry: “To date, with the exception of household waste collected by local authorities, UK waste and resource flow data has been poor.
“Better frameworks for capturing and analysing data, more sophisticated ways of interrogating the data and a move towards an ‘open data’ approach would support evidence-based policy-making, and will be essential to underpin the planning and delivery of appropriate future resource management and recovery infrastructure and services.”
Producer responsibility policy, it says, should use data to influence more sustainable design and production of products.
The reports says more available data could encourage sharing of best practice between companies and incentivise collective responsibility through the supply chain.
“We haven’t reached a tipping point yet but we need to be thinking about a different future,” said CIWM president Margaret Bates (pictured). “During the next 30 years, what we consume, how we consume it – both where and when – and what resources are used and wasted will continue to change.
“This will influence the types and volumes of waste for which our sector has to plan and present new opportunities to improve resource efficiency.”
Sarah Wakefield, food sustainability manager for the Co-op, was on the steering group for the report.
She said: “For us, it’s important to understand how these shifts in consumption patterns will change the way we engage with consumers and also what the resource implications may be.”