Ecodesign key to waste prevention, says Defra

13th December 2013

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Nicholas Passingham

The government has pledged to improve the availability of finance to businesses wanting to become more resource efficient in its new plan to cut waste

Launching the government’s new Waste Prevention Programme for England, resource management minister Dan Rogerson called on companies to rethink how they design their goods and services.

“Products should be designed to use fewer resources from the start and with longer lifetimes, repair and reuse in mind,” said Rogerson.

“Preventing waste from being produced in the first place is not only good for the environment, but for the economy. I want businesses to manage all resources more efficiently by using less, while creating more.”

In the programme, the government commits to improving firms’ access to finance by educating banks on the business case behind improving resource efficiency, as well as continuing its £1.5 million waste prevention loan fund.

A further £800,000 of government funding will be spent on developing a two-year scheme aimed at helping local authorities work in partnership with businesses to tackle waste. Reuse schemes are an example of the types of collaboration that the government is seeking to encourage through the funding.

Meanwhile, Defra is to work with Wrap to create a new action plan for the electrical goods sector aimed at supporting firms in designing more durable products.

The government’s own procurement standards are to be altered to include waste prevention and reuse criteria, and the programme confirms that the environment department will help the wider public sector to reduce its waste, starting with the NHS.

The plan also commits the government to clarify is definition of waste by next summer, to better account for reuse and repair.

The Environmental Services Association, which represents the waste and recycling sector in the UK, gave the plan a cautious welcome, greeting the commitment to support the public sector in tackling waste favourably, but warning that more detail was needed.

“There are a number of interesting ideas in the programme which should help promote waste prevention as part of the circular economy,” said Roy Hathaway, ESA policy advisor. “However, the devil will be in the detail.”

The ESA questioned whether the proposals to improve access to finance would address the “real obstacles” to investment and how the government will engage with businesses and consumers with waste prevention.

“While there is much to applaud in the 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,” commented Hathaway.

In November, Rogerson confirmed that Defra was slashing Wrap’s funding from £26 million in 2013/14 to £15.5 million in 2014/15, and that from next spring the environment department would no longer be taking a proactive approach to policy in areas including commercial and industrial waste.

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