Managing the resources that underpin society is both a necessity and an opportunity.
Yet it is often overlooked or seen as damaging to other priorities. Effective resource management will require a more circular economy based on environmental limits and realising the value of resources.
To enable this transformation and effectively end waste, the next Government needs to visualise the potential for innovation, jobs, green growth, society and the environment.
We would like to see a commitment from all parties to develop a cross-governmental resource strategy, led by the Treasury, Defra and the business department. This must focus on an economy that seeks to extract value from all resources and a Government that recognises the long-term benefits.
Many businesses are beginning to understand the potential for redesigning products, services and business models. But, as environmental journalist Maxine Perella recently said, “waste cannot just translate into circular economics – it must also translate into behavioural economics”.
Without engaging the public, they stop caring about their waste, and we can only really drive incremental change. Businesses can only remain a few steps ahead of consumers so, without consumers voting with their consumption habits, the economy will remain largely linear. And if people are not engaged and cannot see the benefits of recycling, they will never support, or call for, the leadership required to transform our economy.
Keep Britain Tidy believes we have been guilty of leaving people out of the debate. They need to be part of the process and not passive consumers oblivious to the challenges. Here are three 2015 policies we would like to see:
- Introduce separate food waste collections for all households in England by 2016. Food waste has the highest environmental impact while having the lowest collection rate for any commonly recycled material. Wales has shown what can be achieved.
- Enable councils to introduce council tax rebates for households that reduce their waste and recycle more. This, as opposed to ‘pay as you throw’, is a positive incentive that also passes the value of the resource back to the household. This enables people to see firsthand that doing the right thing for the environment also has an economic benefit.
- Establish a fund to enable recycling, waste prevention and the circular economy through monies collected by the landfill tax. We believe this should focus on research, innovation and engagement to enable the public to play their vital role in enabling a circular economy that reflects environmental limits.
Tim Burns is evidence and policy manager at Keep Britain Tidy