Now is the time for political parties to start with a blank sheet of paper and set out how we can achieve the end goal of zero waste to landfill.
It is a great opportunity to look to the future and set out a framework for the UK to lead the way.
First, we have to address the issue of the mixed waste model, and ensure that a waste producer is required to pay the full disposal amount. Too often those with heavy bins of waste pay the same as those with light bins, which thus incurs a minimal landfill tax charge.
This method of charging by bin rather than by weight means that waste producers are not feeling the full impact of the landfill tax escalator. This is the key change that needs to be made to enable businesses to realise the financial as well as the corporate social responsibility benefits of diverting waste from landfill.
If fully passed on, the landfill tax escalator should be extended after 2014 to continue to drive up the cost of general waste and enable recycling to be even more cost-effective.
Food waste has already been identified as a key part of the UK’s waste strategy. But most of the 14 million tonnes of food waste we generate each year is produced in small quantities across a variety of locations, making it very difficult to ensure that it can be captured for recycling.
This makes regulation critical for the goal of eradicating food waste from landfill to become a reality. Phased regulation, such as the Scottish model, will enable infrastructure to develop in line with separation and diversion policies, and for change to be planned for and embraced by businesses and councils.
Whatever waste policies the new Government decides to focus on, the key thing for industry is consistency, commitment and a long-term strategy. The short-termism and quick-win nature of central Government is currently hindering the sector and therefore needs to change.
When hundreds of millions of pounds is being invested in infrastructure, companies need to be assured that incentives, such as feed-in tariffs, will not be rescinded at the drop of a hat and that the Government wholeheartedly supports the aim for a zero-waste society. If this is achieved, we can finally guarantee the feedstock required to ensure return on investment in the long term.
Philip Simpson is commercial director at ReFood