Defra Waste Prevention Programme gets lukewarm response from industry


A number of recycling and waste industry representatives have said that they welcome the newly launched Defra Waste Prevention Programme but would have liked to see more ambitious goals.

While the programme launched a number of initiatives, it failed to set any targets for waste prevention.


Resource Association chief executive Ray Georgeson said: “The Resource Association is disappointed but unsurprised at the lack of an overall target for waste prevention in England and wonders how easily this sits alongside the specific targets set separately by governments in Scotland and Wales…

“…There is much to welcome in the plan in terms of a series of initiatives. We particularly welcome the intentions on developing waste prevention metrics, work on design and innovation through the Technology Strategy Board and the new SEAP Sustainable Electricals Plan and work to clarify the definition of waste in relation to reuse and repair activities. In addition, the intention to work with the banks to improve market information on resource efficiency business opportunities is also welcome, as is the focus on waste prevention in the NHS as a major buyer and employer.

“The plan is to be commended for being underpinned by a strong rationale, evidence base and comprehensive and well researched compelling case for waste prevention. It’s such a pity therefore that it doesn’t carry the strongest of signals and leadership position that an overarching target could have provided. We agree wholeheartedly with Government that ‘everyone has a stake and a part to play’ but not with the view stated that ‘no single actor has responsibility or oversight’. We believe that Government does have the leadership role here in ensuring that stakeholders with many interests are working to a clear strategy with clear targets and shared objectives.

“To say as the Government does that ‘as a principle, the Government considers that targets can have unexpected and undesirable consequences’ seems to us to deny the responsibility Government has to lead, especially in challenging policy areas such as waste prevention. We agree that targets can have unexpected consequences but this is not sufficient reason to abandon them as a policy tool – more a reason to gather data correctly and monitor the effects of a policy and review if required. Our Waste Prevention Programme would have been richer if this approach had been taken.”

CIWM chief executive Steve Lee said that its members will welcome the fact that the programme has been completed within the EU deadline and that this sector, and those around us, can now get to grips with it.

While welcoming some of the measures including blockages to investment in more resource efficient business models, he warned it will not deliver a “step change” in society’s attitudes to resources and waste that is needed.

He added: “CIWM sounded alarm bells during the summer consultation, particularly with regard to the rather distant role envisaged for Government in this space and most of those concerns remain. We wanted to see English Government adopt a leading role in Europe, working for common standards and exploring far-reaching resource efficiency measures including taxation, new product standards, and producer responsibility mechanisms. But we see none of this in the programme.

“We wanted common and appropriate data collection and the measurement of resource flows and impacts rather than counting recycled tonnes. We see a commitment to developing metrics by the end of next year and CIWM will commit to support in that vital work, but crucially there is still nothing on reduction targets or new approaches to measurement.”

“We wanted clear leadership by Government in terms of communications to provide strong overarching messages and underpin awareness raising activities by the wide range of partners involved in waste prevention. We see a nod in that direction, but not much more. And we asked for clear signals on how waste prevention and its offspring – resource efficiency and security – will be coordinated between Government departments and tied in to economic development and planning at a larger than local level. If we are to make proper headway in waste prevention rather than doing the minimum to satisfy Waste Framework Directive requirements, we will need to see action on all of the above…

“…I suspect that many in the industry will be disappointed with this Waste Prevention Programme, but we must remember that waste prevention and resource efficiency are no less important for a lack-lustre national programme. This industry, together with its new partners elsewhere in the resources cycle, needs to commit to working on the basics such as data gathering and analysis, as well as driving for early wins in areas such as reuse. This is a programme we hope will be refined and improved in light of experience and new information, particularly from Wales and Scotland who have taken a more proactive and ambitious approach. It is time for us to learn and improve collectively rather than turning our backs because we don’t see everything we wanted in version 1.0.”