Waste review lacks action

15th June 2011

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  • Pollution & Waste Management



Defra's long-awaited review of waste policy has been criticised by MPs and environmental groups for not providing a more strategic approach to moving to a zero-waste economy.

The 80-page review outlines commitments from the government to help reduce waste, increase recycling and encourage the creation of energy from waste, but has been labelled as lacking ambition and as not going beyond rhetoric.

The government confirms it will end the Landfill Allowance Trading Scheme in 2013 and launch consultations on restricting the amount of wood reaching landfill sites and new recycling targets for 2017.

The review commits to promoting “life cycle thinking in all waste policy and waste management decisions”, encouraging councils to sign up to set principles of delivering local waste services, helping to develop “voluntary responsibility deals” to encourage businesses to commit to reducing waste and overcoming the barriers to the wider uptake of anaerobic digestion.

Launching the review at the Chartered Institute of Waste Management (CIWM) conference, environment secretary Caroline Spelman said: “For too long, we’ve lagged behind the rest of Europe, although we are catching up fast. Communities and businesses can help us become a first-class zero-waste economy and unlock the real value in the goods that people no longer want.”

However, the review was criticised for lacking concrete proposals to significantly increase recycling rates and cut the amount of waste going to landfill.

"There are few measures [in the review] that will make any real difference on the ground,” said Hannah Hislop, senior policy adviser at environmental think tank Green Alliance. “Defra appears to will the ends, but so far lacks the means, of achieving a zero-waste economy.

She also argued the government were underplaying the opportunity offered by disposal bans to drive innovation and investment.

Friends of the Earth described the paper as embarrassing, deriding its lack of new ideas.

"The government has spent a year reviewing its approach to rubbish and all it's managed to do is reduce its ambition, recycle old ideas and dump its commitment to a zero-waste economy,” complained Friends of the Earth's waste campaigner Julian Kirby.

"Ministers should be helping cut waste and boost recycling - but they've produced a half-hearted document that takes waste policy back in time."

Alongside the waste review, Defra published its strategic roadmap for the future of anaerobic digestion (AD) which details how it intends to encourage the wider uptake of AD including providing guidance on the costs and benefits of the technology, highlighting best practice projects and ensuring the skills of the AD workforce.

However, once again the publication received mixed comments, with the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association (ADBA) saying the government should have been bolder in its plans.

"The government should have called for as much organic waste to be treated through AD as possible,” said Charlotte Morton, ADBA chief executive. “We are also disappointed by the lack of recognition of the importance of source-segregating food waste, in reducing waste arising, allowing easier recycling of products from other materials such as plastics, and creating a quality fertiliser from AD which will help decarbonise food production.”

The news came as WRAP published its business plan up until 2015 detailing how it plans to help the UK lower its carbon dioxide emissions by seven million tonnes.

To read the government’s waste review and its strategy for AD in full visit Defra’s website.


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