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RWM report sets out data challenge

The challenges of achieving smarter data for the waste sector and policy makers have been set out in a report assessing its availability, accuracy and reliability.

The report’s recommendations include greater sharing of existing information held within the sector, common standards for that data and wider use of the Edoc electronic duty of care system.

It also calls for a working group to assess the potential for a voluntary agreement on data between the waste industry and Defra.

The report, from Ricardo Energy and Environment, was commissioned by the RWM Ambassadors, a group of senior industry figures established in 2014. RWM organisers i2i, part of the Ascential group which includes MRW, sponsor an annual project and data was selected by the Ambassadors as a timely issue theme for this year.

The findings were launched at an event in Westminster chaired by MP Barry Sheerman, a co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group.

Ricardo principal consultant Simone Aplin presented the report and said the availability, accuracy and timeliness of waste data had long been questioned.

“The lack of reliable data has, in part, contributed to a great deal of debate about key areas of decision making and policy such as the potential treatment capacity gap in the UK and waste infrastructure planning applications,” she said.

Aplin said most data sets existed because of specific regulations and there were significant gaps in areas not covered by regulation or where deregulation has occurred, for example waste prevention, reuse, waste managed by some exempt sites and material meeting the end of waste test.

She said significant benefits would result if comprehensive, accurate and timely waste data was collected and made available, particularly if it gave the Government an in-depth understanding of waste generation and waste management across the UK.

According to the report: “Comprehensive data would act as a strong evidence against which effective policies could be developed to deliver sustainable resource management and a more circular economy, accelerating the benefits to the UK economy and environment.”

It also argued that the waste management industry would have more confidence to invest in and deploy waste treatment infrastructure and waste management services.

Discussion at the event highlighted the challenge for waste management companies of releasing information that was commercially very sensitive.

Jacob Hayler, executive director of the Environmental Services Association, said an earlier pilot for a cross-sector working party had foundered as it had covered only a fraction of the market and there was industry concern about how the data contributed by those involved would be used.

It was also argued that larger companies already had their own electronic duty of care systems so a change to the voluntary Edoc would be an extra cost.  

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