Assessing impacts of waste prevention

29th April 2013

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  • Mitigation ,
  • Minimisation ,
  • Consultancy ,
  • Waste



ERM's Hannah Beeby and Anton van Santen describe an innovative research project supported by Defra and Wrap, examining how to assess the environmental impacts of waste prevention measures

Schedule 4 of The Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011 (the “EIA Regulations”) details the information which proponents should include in environmental statements.

In terms of waste, the EIA Regulations require that applications as a minimum should include: “A description of the measures envisaged to prevent, reduce and where possible offset any significant adverse effects on the environment.”

Often forgotten is the part that waste prevention plays. Driving waste up the waste hierarchy is a fundamental driver in the industry at present, underpinned by the European Waste Framework Directive (WFD) (2008/98/EC).

Developers have an obligation to try and minimise waste through design and through mitigation in development, however, at present there is no real way to quantify the benefits and impacts of this prevention.

First of its kind

To respond to this, ERM (Environmental Resources Management) is leading a research project with Defra, WRAP and 14 local authorities that has developed a tool capable of calculating the tonnage, cost and carbon benefits of waste prevention for municipal wastes.

The tool is known as the “waste prevention benefits calculator” (WPBC) and is the first of its kind. It fills a data gap not currently addressed elsewhere.

While other tools and software address the management of waste itself, WPBC answers the question of how to measure the benefits of waste prevention; quantifying the benefits of something that is no longer there.

Benefits of collaboration

Under the WFD Defra is required to develop a national waste prevention plan by 2013 and the WPBC project is helping to fill a key gap in their evidence base.

The collaborative nature of the project is itself innovative and has enabled the sharing of experience and examples of best practice.

This has been a major benefit of the project and allowed contact between parties that would not normally work together.

The WPBC is now at the heart of the drive to establish and measure cultural change in waste prevention and reuse in local authorities.

By being able to quantify expected results from waste prevention activities, local authorities and others are able to justify their spend in this area.

Successful delivery

The project team at ERM has successfully delivered a working calculator to project members.

The calculator includes a baseline or reference scenario which is then compared with a “waste prevention initiative” scenario.

The calculator comes pre-populated with representative default data which can be varied to meet individual user requirements.

The initial development has been based on the following five example waste prevention measures, selected for prioritisation by the consortium members:

  • the local implementation of Wrap’s “Love food hate waste” campaigns;
  • home composting;
  • reuse of textiles;
  • reuse of WEEE (waste electrical and electronic equipment; and
  • reuse of furniture.

The calculator has been peer reviewed by an international expert in the field of life-cycle assessment.

The project is now in a second phase of delivery where ERM intend to further develop and refine the tool.

Cost-effective method of demonstrating savings

The calculator is enabling local authorities to quantify their prevented waste tonnages, as well as the related financial and carbon savings.

Partner authorities are able to use these figures in their business planning and it helps them to focus on spending decisions which best meet their local needs.

The calculator’s scope, usability and its use of modelling exceeded the expectations of the peer reviewer, who considered the project’s outputs to be impressive.

The research has been extremely cost-effective for central government and the 14 local authorities involved as the WPBC is fulfilling a key data requirement in waste prevention planning.

Next steps

At present, the WPBC results are authority-specific and the next target is to report on nationally-applicable trends and statistics from key waste prevention schemes run in authorities from across the country.

The project will focus on three of Defra and Wrap’s priority areas: the “Love food hate waste” campaign; textiles reuse; and WEEE reuse. The results will support Defra and Wrap in the preparation of England’s waste prevention plan.

Beyond the waste prevention plan, the project aims to overcome the fundamental challenge of waste prevention: that of understanding where the money is going.

In being able to demonstrate value for money and much needed cost savings, it is hoped that local authorities (and other waste generating bodies) will be able to resource and deliver more extensive and more wide-ranging waste prevention schemes.

This article was written as a contribution to the EIA Quality Mark’s commitment to improving EIA practice.

Publically accessible materials relating to the WPBC project are available freely from the CIWM website.

Hannah Beeby ( is a senior consultant and Anton van Santen ( is a technical director at ERM.

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