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Industry disappointed at lack of targets in Waste Prevention Programme

The newly released waste prevention plan for England met with industry concerns over the lack of measurable objectives.

Resources minister Dan Rogerson said the plan, ‘Prevention is better than cure: the role of waste prevention in moving to a more resource efficient economy’, was not ‘target focused’.

Responses from industry so far have been mixed.


Waste Watch:

The programme report, Prevention is Better than Cure, is a great starting point, framing the programme around the importance of reduction, redesign, reuse, repair and rethinking.

However, the key drivers that moved us away from landfill and on to recovery and recycling in England are still missing from this programme if we are to move to becoming a society focused on prevention and reuse.

The Welsh and Scottish Governments published their plans last week and both featured series of annual milestones and targets to reduce waste.

In England, though Defra has objectives, it has no targets or timescales attached. It is good to see a move away from just measuring recycling rates and a greater focus on waste arising but, sadly, these will be measured in relation to economic activity rather than actual figures.

Ray Georgeson, Resource Association:

The Plan is to be commended for being underpinned by a strong rationale, evidence base and comprehensive and well researched compelling case for waste prevention. It’s such a pity therefore that it doesn’t carry the strongest of signals and leadership position that an overarching target could have provided. (…)

We agree that targets can have unexpected consequences but this is not sufficient reason to abandon them as a policy tool - more a reason to gather data correctly and monitor the effects of a policy and review if required. Our Waste Prevention Plan for England would have been richer if this approach had been taken.

Jonathan Short, deputy chairman of ECO Plastics:

Whilst there are some welcome proposals to support waste prevention for businesses and consumers, there are also important omissions in today’s announcement.

The Government has already set challenging recycling targets, but mechanisms which are crucial to the delivery of those targets are still missing. Until we stop encouraging the export of recyclates ahead of domestic processing, until we introduce incentives to incorporate the use of recycled content in new products and until we have a mandatory code of practice for materials recycling facilities we won’t have the regulatory framework to underpin a truly circular economy. Today is a missed opportunity.

Roy Hathaway, Environmental Services Association policy advisor:

There are a number of interesting ideas in the Waste Prevention Plan for England which should help promote waste prevention as part of the circular economy.  The ESA welcomes the following:

  • The Government’s commitment to helping the wider public sector to reduce its waste, starting with the NHS.
  • The £5 million investment by TSB in designing out waste and the £1.5 million competition on design challenges for the Circular Economy.
  • The emphasis on reuse, including Defra bringing the waste management industry, local authorities and third sector together to improve reuse at HWRC’s.

However, the devil will be in the detail and ESA members will want further clarification on a number of points, including:

  • Whether the Government’s proposals for improving access to finance for business will address the real obstacles to much-needed future investment
  • How the Government intends to communicate its calls for action by businesses, local authorities, civil society and consumers in a way which makes the target audiences hear them and – crucially - act on them

While there is much to applaud in today’s document, it remains to be seen whether Defra and WRAP have the political will and the resources to follow up all these ideas and help make them happen.

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