Defra's Waste Strategy for England 2007, published in May, was introduced by Waste Minister, Ben Bradshaw as: ‘… a strategy for the whole community, not just for Government. We need to generate and maintain the desire to take responsible action on waste, in which we share a sense that what we do to reduce or better manage waste – as designers, as producers, as retailers, as purchasers, as consumers – will make a real difference...’
The Strategy introduces proposals to reduce the impact of waste on the environment by increasing the profile of waste management across all sectors and in particular promoting a waste management hierarchy:
- prevention (avoidance and minimisation);
- recycling (including composting);
- energy Recovery (e.g. incineration with energy recovery);
- disposal (landfill or incineration without energy recovery).
The strategy aims to build on progress made since 2000; notably the continued rise in recycling and a 9% overall reduction in landfill, but the key message is that the UK lags behind most of Europe in this area and needs to close the gap.
The Government's key objectives for delivery are expected to deliver a diversion of 25M tonnes of waste p.a. from landfill, and comprise:
- decoupling waste growth from economic growth;
- meeting the Landfill Directive diversion targets;
- diverting more non-municipal waste from landfill;
- securing necessary investment in infrastructure;
- maximising the benefit from infrastructure investment through the incorporation of energy recovery technology.
In addition the Strategy sets targets for recycling:
- household waste not recycled from 22.2M tonnes (2000) to 12.2M tonnes (2020);
- proportion of household waste recycled at 40% (2010) and 50% (2020);
- proportion of municipal waste recovered at 53% (2010) and 75% (2020).
Targets for commercial and industrial and packaging waste recycling are under consideration, and a waste reduction target of 50% in the construction industry by 2012 is under consultation.
The Strategy's proposals fall into six areas.
Incentivisation. The landfill tax escalator (currently £24) will increase by £8 p.a. from 2008 until at least 2010. The ban on householder incentivisation could be lifted, allowing local authorities to introduce charges through which non-recycling householders subsidise those who do recycle. This issue of a variable waste tax is politically a highly sensitive topic. Recognising this, a consultation exercise on householder incentivisation has been launched; the Strategy stresses the Government's opposition to such a tax, and that any incentive scheme must be revenue neutral.
Effective Regulation. A simplified, riskbased regulatory system centred on 'waste protocols' will be introduced. A new Environmental Permitting Programme will streamline waste management licensing and bring regulatory savings of £90M.
Material, Product and Sector Targeting will focus on delivering the maximum environmental benefits through a list of 'key waste materials': paper, food, glass, aluminium, wood, plastic, and textiles, and in priority sectors: food, retail, construction and demolition.
Infrastructure Investment. Efficiency requires that materials segregation is carried out close to the source of the waste. This requires investment by local authorities, businesses and the third sector. The Strategy includes measures to: improve the advice available to local authorities; ensure that RSSs conform to national guidance; provide procurement and investment support to local authorities; and use financial incentives (e.g. PFI) to encourage energy recovery technologies. A new Waste Infrastructure Delivery Programme will ensure the timely delivery of major infrastructure.
Local and Regional Government will be supported in its delivery within an increasingly complex waste management regime through measures including: allowing the creation of joint waste authorities; establishing a new performance package for authorities; and encouraging authorities to work in partnership with businesses to minimise and recycle waste.
Cultural Change will be achieved through: awareness campaigns; incentivising excellence through the use of exemplary 'zero waste places'; reducing the use of disposable carrier bags (25% by 2008); providing more recycling bins; promoting recycling in schools; and setting challenging targets for waste reduction and purchasing of recycled materials for central government.
Delivery of the Strategy will be the responsibility of a Defra led 'Waste Strategy Board' which will also develop further policy actions. The Board will be advised by a 'Waste Stakeholder Group' drawn from a wide range of organisations including local government, waste management organisations, the third sector and environmental NGOs.
The proposals contained in the strategy are wide-ranging and send a clear signal that the ignoring the principles of good waste management will no longer be a viable option. The combination of incentives for compliance and good practice, along with financial penalties and the threat of legislation for those who do not voluntarily comply, should leave householders and industry alike in no doubt that the Government intends to deliver on its environmental objectives.