Not overly ambitious

With the policy paper „Waste prevention programme for England: Maximising Resources, Minimising Waste“, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs wants to encourage waste prevention in England.
Source man: Elias,

However, this would require a far more ambitious programme.

The paper emphasises the need to maximise the use of resources and minimise waste. The proposed programme therefore aims to make “reduce and reuse” the norm so that the economy becomes truly circular and sustainable. “By preventing waste, we can be more efficient with our resources, saving businesses and consumers money and reducing pressure on the environment,” the policy paper states.

The waste prevention programme focuses on three main themes: designing out waste, systems and services, and data and information. There are seven key sectors for action, based on the amount of waste or carbon emissions generated by production, as follows: construction, textiles, furniture, electronics, vehicles, plastics and packaging, and food.

The programme supports the previously set target of halving the amount of residual waste per person by 2042. The target is based on the 2019 level of 574 kg per capita. Other targets supported by the programme include zero avoidable waste by 2050, a 65% municipal recycling rate and less than 10% of municipal waste going to landfill by 2035, and the elimination of avoidable plastic waste by 2042.

The paper defines ‚designing out waste‘ as implementing changes in design to make products durable, repairable and recyclable. These measures include ecodesign, providing consumer information and extended producer responsibility. Ecodesign requirements should include mandatory minimum levels of environmental performance. These include energy efficiency, recycled content, a minimum number of use cycles and the easy removal of certain components. Information that consumers can trust can also support a shift towards greater resource efficiency.

Systems and services will ensure that there is a functioning system of public, private and voluntary sector and social enterprise organisations and services operating at local level to facilitate the reuse, repair, and refurbishment of products, addressing market failures such as limited collection and reverse logistics. The programme will also ensure that the waste hierarchy is applied more rigorously. The waste hierarchy guidelines will therefore be revised by 2024.

The use of data and digitalisation should support the increased use of secondary materials and used products. It can also serve to increase the transparency of progress. One possible measure is the introduction of product passports.

To make the construction sector more circular, buildings need to be designed for adaptability and deconstruction, components need to be increasingly reused and the materials used need to be reusable and recyclable. Demolition systems also have to be improved.

To support waste reduction targets and the net-zero commitment, fewer textiles will have to be sent to residual waste. This can be achieved by increasing product use, diverting products and materials from residual waste and stimulating a profitable recycling industry. “We want to see our UK textiles and fashion industry leading the way on circularity through adopting circular business models such as resale, rental and repair, and investing in textiles reprocessing and recycling in alignment with the waste hierarchy,” the paper states.

For furniture and furnishings, more sustainable design and improved collection, reuse, and repair services with supporting infrastructure are to be encouraged.

The programme also aims to increase the reuse, repair, and refurbishment of electronic and electrical products, and to develop options for designing out waste using ecodesign principles as well as improving collection rates for waste electrical and electronic equipment.

For road vehicles, the programme aims to explore ways to increase reuse, repair and refurbishment, in addition to design considerations such as lightweighting to reduce waste in this sector and contribute to achieving net-zero by 2050.

The programme also aims to encourage a shift away from hard-to-recycle and single-use products and packaging. It will also support research and innovation into more sustainable alternatives and systems to reduce litter and plastic pollution and conserve material resources. Measures include extending the ban on single-use plastics and introducing extended producer responsibility for packaging in 2025.

Food and drink waste will be reduced, both at home and throughout the supply chain. It is estimated that 9.5 million tonnes of food is wasted in the UK per year, 70% of which is avoidable.

All these actions will be monitored in order to understand the economic, social and environmental benefits and to develop further programmes. Metrics include the total waste generated, the number of companies, employment levels and gross value added in the repair, reuse and rental sector, raw material consumption, the carbon footprint on a consumption basis and the greenhouse gas emissions associated with waste management.

Overall, it can be said that the programme is not overly ambitious. Many references are made to existing successes, new measures are not particularly concrete, most references are made to the need for further research, or measures are limited due to the lack of provision of funding.


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