We consider the key messages from the Government’s comprehensive review of waste policy and delivery in Englandthat sets out actions and commitments on working towards a zero waste economy.
Waste services are local matters that should be decided at local level rather than by central government diktat. This is the key message from the Government’s comprehensive review of waste policy and delivery in England, published on 14 June 2011, that sets out actions and commitments on working towards a zero waste economy.
The Review was set up in June 2010 to look at the most effective ways of reducing waste, maximising the money to be made from waste and recycling, and how waste policies affect local communities and individual households. It focuses on household and business waste, and does not cover hazardous waste nor mining and quarrying waste.
A “zero waste economy” is one in which material resources are re-used, recycled or recovered wherever possible, and where disposal in landfill is the option of very last resort. The guiding principle for the Review was the waste hierarchy - this is a legal requirement of the revised EU Waste Framework Directive, and gives top priority to waste prevention, followed by preparing for re-use, then recycling, other types of recovery (including energy recovery), and last of all disposal (e.g. landfill).
The Review’s actions and commitments on working towards a zero waste economy build on previous policy and initiatives, so there are few surprises.
The Review’s key points are:
The report is accompanied by a detailed Action Plan that sets out the timetable for the 62 action points. The Government states that it will now work closely with local government, businesses and civil society in driving this work forward to set priorities and monitor action, with a progress report in March 2012.
A fuller Waste Prevention Programme for England will be published by the end of 2013, which will continue the progress towards a zero waste economy by setting out detailed actions to enable better resource efficiency and waste prevention, and address any further EU obligations under the revised Waste Framework Directive.
The Review will be seen by some in the waste industry as a missed opportunity. The failure to raise the bar in relation to recycling targets (as seen by the waste strategies for Wales and Scotland) but leaving it at 50% is unlikely to help meet the overall aim of a “zero waste economy”.
The decision not to impose a weekly collection regime will be welcomed by local authorities. Many collection authorities have been moving to an alternative weekly collection regime in an effort to save costs and improve recycling rates. Reverting to a weekly system would have been viewed as a sign of going backwards rather than forwards.
Finally, the focus on the importance of managing commercial and business waste streams will be welcomed by the waste sector. The introduction of a voluntary industry code and a drive to help businesses and the waste sector increase the recycling of such waste streams is positive news.
Bevan Brittan has a specialist Waste and Energy team that advises local authorities and the waste industry on all aspects of waste management, disposal and energy generation. If you would like any further information or advice on this area, please contact Nadeem Arshad or Christopher Jarman.