Defra millions boost business' waste and energy efficiency

An initiative worth £284 million that will help businesses manage their resources and reduce their waste more efficiently was launched last week by Environment Minister Elliot Morley.

Specifically targeting waste minimisation, diverting waste from landfill and improving resource efficiency, the Business Resource Efficiency and Waste (BREW) programme will recycle revenue obtained through Landfill Tax increases to provide support to businesses in the UK.

"A wide range of industries, from manufacturers to retailers, can save literally billions of pounds a year by cutting waste and improving resource efficiency, often with little or no investment," Mr Morley said at the programme's launch. "By getting involved, businesses of all sizes are set to boost profits while reducing environmental impacts."

Some of the organisations supported by the BREW fund include the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), the Carbon Trust and the Environment Agency (EA).

The EA announced last week that it would put the £2 million funding from BREW into cracking down on illegal waste activities (see related story) and the development of new environmental industries to recover and reuse resources previously being disposed of as rubbish.

"We applaud Defra in recognising that catching the cowboys who undermine legitimate businesses needs to be integral in a strategy to improve business efficiency and waste minimisation," chief executive of the EA, Barbara Young stated in response to the funding.

According to Defra, British manufacturing could save up to £3 billion each year through adopting waste minimisation techniques, equal to around 7% of annual profits. Moreover, manufacturers could save at least 1% of their turnover (on average around £1,000 per employee) simply by taking low-cost or no-cost actions to reduce the amount of waste they produce.

Implementing cost-effective energy efficiency measures could also save industry around £1.8 billion in the UK, and Defra estimated that adopting measures costing businesses little or nothing would result in a 20% reduction in all-round energy usage - which would have the same profitable outcome as a 5% increase in sales.

Key focus points of the BREW programme will include:

  • Research and development on waste and resource efficiency;
  • Developing new markets and improving market solutions to waste;
  • Improved data through strategic development;
  • Better planning to "design out" waste and inefficiency at the early stages of product development;
  • The reviewing of operations and management systems to cut pollution, reduce waste and boost profits; and
  • Ensuring industry compliance, cracking down on businesses operating outside of regulations.

    Mr Morley said that the programme had already received strong support from the business community, with some organisations having already collectively helped businesses in the UK to achieve over £1 billion in savings.

    "Their environmental contribution to date is hugely encouraging: diverting millions of tonnes of waste from landfill, cutting millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions along with other benefits, such as reducing water consumption," he added.

    "Reducing waste has always been a profit opportunity; in today's consumer, economic, ecological and regulatory environment it is becoming a necessity."

    The development and administration of the BREW programme is guided by a Steering Group of business representatives, including the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

    Businesses can get involved, get advice and apply for loans through Envirowise, The Carbon Trust, the National Industrial Symbiosis Programme (NISP), the Market Transformation Programme, or WRAP.

    By Jane Kettle

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