Defra outlines short-term waste goals

Defra has announced a raft of measures that it plans to focus on in the next six months, including providing clarification on the definition of waste and developing a suite of metrics to help monitor progress on waste prevention.

Karen Lepper, waste strategy and management deputy director at Defra, was speaking at the Westminster Energy, Environment & Transport Forum’s conference on waste prevention yesterday (21 January) when she told a packed audience of resource management stakeholders about the Government’s short-term goals.

She said: “In the next six months, the next things we are going to be concentrating on are the definition of waste. We will be working closely with the Environment Agency, local authorities and others to provide clarity on how the definition of waste is applied. This is something I know that some people already find fine and do not have a problem with it. But others do find it causes problems. We have to work with them to find out what the solutions are.”

The plans were originally unveiled in the Government’s Waste Prevention Programme, which was published last year (December 2013). She also reiterated that Defra will work with businesses, local authorities and others to develop a suite of metrics by the end of 2014 to help monitor progress on waste prevention.

Lepper explained that Defra will develop, through WRAP, a web-based postcode locator to provide a practical tool to enable householders to find their local reuse and repair services.

Defra will also aim to help Wrap develop a ‘Sustainable Electricals Action Plan’, aimed at catalysing sector action and seeking commitment on design of electrical products for longer life.

In its Waste Prevention Programme, Defra stated that it would develop a  £800,000, two-year scheme to support  communities to take forward innovative waste prevention, reuse and repair actions in their local areas, working in partnership with local businesses, authorities and civil society groups.

Lepper acknowledged that creating a waste prevention society would “not be straightforward or easy”. She said that it would not happen overnight and could take a “number of years”.

WRAP also addressed the audience at the conference about key issues facing the future of waste management. Director of Sustainable Products and Services Systems Marcus Gover said that “the waste hierarchy was no longer enough” in working towards a circular economy. He said there is now a need to minimise the initial use of resources and design products to reduce their environmental impact.

Speaking to after the event about the future of waste management, Gover said: “In the last ten years, the focus has largely been about recycling. The next ten years has to be a journey from waste prevention to product sustainability. It’s not about waste anymore, it’s about resources.”

He also said that there were opportunities for new business models to exist, where businesses could repair and reuse products such as washing machines and sell them on to consumers. Gover said that this waste prevention model is already happening, where some businesses are “designing things to last longer and user fewer materials to make them”. They are also being “designed to be repaired” rather than disposed of.

Gover also revealed that it would be starting a new campaign, in spring, in relation to its Sustainable Clothing Action Plan, which aims to bring together the clothing industry, government and third sector to reduce resource-use.

Liz Gyekye

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