Waste sector growing faster than the wider economy, report finds

5th February 2015

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Business & Industry ,
  • Waste ,
  • Generation ,
  • Renewable


William Connally

The economic value from managing waste has risen by a third over the past eight years, according to a government report published today.

Analysis of the recent and potential future contribution of the waste and resource management sector to UK economic growth by the environment department (Defra), finds that the "gross value added" (GVA) of a tonne of waste increased from £32 in 2004 to £43 in 2012, after inflation had been taken into account. GVA is the value of goods and services produced in one sector of the economy.

The UK gains considerable value from recovered materials, the report says. In 2012, dry recovered material from households, such as glass, paper and plastics, was estimated by Defra to have been worth up to £500 million. The environment department estimates that the value of recovered materials from commercial, industrial and construction waste over the same period was likely to be several billion pounds.

The waste industry adds more value than other extractive industries in the UK, Defra reports. In 2012, the waste industry added almost £41 of GVA for each tonne it treated compared £16 per tonne produced by the mining and quarrying sector.

The waste industry is also contributing to the economy through energy recovery, Defra says. In 2013, £447.4 million of electricity (9005 GWh) was generated from waste. Of this, £155.5 million (3130 GWh) was generated through residential waste treatment; £35.1 million (707 GWh) from anaerobic digestion; and £256.8 million (5169 GWh) from the capture of landfill gas.

Such activity reduces the cost to the public sector of managing waste, the report states. Between 2008/09 and 2012/13, the total cost to councils for managing waste, excluding landfill tax, fell by 3.5%, Defra reports.

The environment department outlines in the report how domestic reprocessing of waste can add further value to the economy and support jobs and growth, while also reducing import of raw and recovered materials from overseas. Defra is collecting data for the volume of material recovered in the UK to calculate the extent to which the domestic use of recovered material has changed over time.

The UK's reprocessing sector is not large enough to use up all the materials recovered domestically, leading to exports worth £4.35 billion in 2013, or 8% of all UK exports by weight, the report reveals.

Resource efficiency has improved and there has been some decoupling of resource use and income generation across the economy, Defra believes. The department is hoping that more businesses will earn revenue from their waste following the launch of the Environment Agency's new "end of waste quality criteria". This will allow businesses to reuse some waste they would have otherwise been required to dispose of.

Businesses could save £139 million a year through reduced waste management costs by 2020, and generate a further £355 million through the sale of new products manufactured from such material, Defra says.

The Environmental Services Association (ESA), which represents the waste industry, welcomed the report, but warned of tough times ahead for the recycling industry.

Executive director Jacob Hayler said: "Recyclers are struggling as local authority cost pressures are leading to more contaminated material being pushed on to the market, which has little, if any, value.

"The resource sector's true potential - as recognised in the report - will not be realised unless we can fix a broken supply chain, which, at the moment, is not producing the valuable outputs the market demands."

Transform articles

National climate plans could see fossil fuel demand peak by 2025

Demand for fossil fuels will peak by 2025 if all national net-zero pledges are implemented in full and on time, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has forecast.

15th October 2021

Read more

The Green Homes Grant is set to deliver only a fraction of the jobs and improvements intended, leading to calls for more involvement from local authorities in future schemes.

23rd September 2021

Read more

COVID-19 recovery packages have largely focused on protecting, rather than transforming, existing industries, and have been a “lost opportunity” for speeding up the global energy transition.

23rd September 2021

Read more

Half of the world's 40 largest listed oil and gas companies will have to slash their production by at least 50% by the 2030s to align with the goals of the Paris Agreement, new analysis has found.

9th September 2021

Read more

None of England’s water and sewerage companies achieved all environmental expectations for the period 2015 to 2020, the Environment Agency has revealed. These targets included the reduction of total pollution incidents by at least one-third compared with 2012, and for incident self-reporting to be at least 75%.

30th July 2021

Read more

The UK’s pipeline for renewable energy projects could mitigate 90% of job losses caused by COVID-19 and help deliver the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda. That is according to a recent report from consultancy EY-Parthenon, which outlines how the UK’s £108bn “visible pipeline” of investible renewable energy projects could create 625,000 jobs.

30th July 2021

Read more

Billions of people worldwide have been unable to access safe drinking water and sanitation in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a progress report from the World Health Organisation focusing on the UN’s sixth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6) – to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030”.

30th July 2021

Read more

The oil and gas industry is set to burn through its allocated carbon budget 13 years early unless decisive action is taken immediately, new analysis has found.

22nd July 2021

Read more

The UK will no longer use unabated coal to generate electricity from October 2024, one year earlier than originally planned, the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy has announced.

2nd July 2021

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert