The report  from Defra – Resource management: a catalyst for growth and productivity – details the recent and potential future contribution of the sector towards wider economic growth.

It found that efficiency in the sector is improving, with Gross Value Added (GVA) per tonne of waste increasing by 33% since 2004.  GVA measures how much a sector contributes to the economy by taking away input costs from the value of the sector’s output.

The report also highlights the value of the waste sector compared to resource-intense industries. In  2012, the waste industry added almost £41 of GVA for each tonne it treated compared to the “other mining and quarrying” sector which added £16 for each tonne it produces.

The difference is “not surprising” according to the report, because the waste industry is delivering a service by removing waste as well as generating new raw materials like other industries.

Waste as a power source

The paper estimated that £447.4m of electricity (9005 GWh) was generated from waste in 2013, with the majority coming from capturing landfill gas.

Britain’s exports markets also benefited, since the “domestic reprocessing sector is not large enough to use up all of the materials recovered in the UK”. As a result, the UK exported 13 million tonnes of key recovered materials (metals, paper, plastics, and textiles) worth £4.35bn.

Resource management Minister Dan Rogerson said in a statement: “I asked for this analysis to developed, as in tough economic times, it’s important we have a robust understanding of the contribution of waste and resource management to the growth.”

“This analysis shows there is a massive opportunity for businesses to make money from repairing, re-using and remanufacturing equipment to extend the life of products. Using our resources more carefully is not only good for the environment, it’s also vital to build a stronger economy.”

Waste potential

Resource efficiency could generate an extra £3.58bn for UK businesses by 2020, says the report, but points to a number of steps that Defra should take to reach this potential.

These steps include raising awareness of global export opportunities; exploring opportunities presented by emerging technologies (e.g. the bio-economy) and exploring the drivers of value creation at each rung of the hierarchy and how these are likely to change over time.

Brad Allen

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