Poor waste data impeding circular economy

8th February 2016


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  • Business & Industry ,
  • Manufacturing ,
  • Public sector ,
  • Local government ,
  • Waste

Author

Rufus Howard

Better waste data is needed to inform and drive opportunities in resource management and the circular economy, according to an industry report.

The waste industry has been concerned for several years about the lack of comprehensive information on waste materials. Most of the data currently collected and reported is to comply with specific regulations, and there are significant gaps in several areas, including on waste prevention, reuse of materials and waste managed by sites that are exempt from environmental permits.

Industry group RWM Ambassadors, which includes professionals from the Chartered Institute of Wastes Management, the RWM event and waste body Wrap, commissioned research to identify the benefits to the government, the waste management sector and manufacturing businesses as well as the UK economy if data was improved.

The research was undertaken by consultancy Ricardo AEA and found that comprehensive, accurate and timely information about waste would have significant benefits. These range from better development and monitoring of policies for sustainable resource management to the creation of a more circular economy in the UK.

The lack of good information about commercial and industrial waste streams, for example, could lead to the government and others formulating policy that is counterproductive or only focused on areas for which robust data is available, the report says.

There are more targets and interventions relating to the management of municipal waste even though there is almost three times as much waste coming from the commercial and industrial sector, it notes.

Better data would give the waste management industry more confidence to invest in, and deploy waste treatment infrastructure and waste management services, the report states. Such investment would speed up the delivery of further waste treatment capacity, including the specialist deconstruction and recycling infrastructure required to deliver a more circular economy.

The research identified specific actions to improve the data, some of which can be done quickly, with limited cost, as well as more complex interventions that would require greater cooperation between stakeholders and more funding.

Recommendations include:

  • encouraging regulators and the government to publish open-source waste data;
  • exploring the potential to combine regulatory datasets into a single reporting portal to build a comprehensive picture of waste flows;
  • making use of the edoc online waste reporting system mandatory across the UK to provide accurate data on commercial, industrial, construction and demolition waste;
  • reporting to regulators the volume and type of waste classified as having reached ‘end of waste status’ – where it has been recycled or turned into another product.

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