Defra to beef up policy focus on waste prevention

Waste prevention will be a key focus for the Government over the next 12 months as it looks to concentrate its efforts further up the waste hierarchy, Defra recycling minister Lord Taylor has confirmed.

Speaking at CIWM’s annual conference today (June 12), Taylor confirmed his department will be looking at ways to encourage the waste sector to work more closely with organisations, businesses and local communities to implement stronger minimisation measures.

Food waste, in particular, will be a key target area. “Wasting less of the food we grow will be a focus for the coming year … there still remains a lot to do,” Taylor told delegates.

“It’s not just about tackling food waste, more can be done with those who supply the food. We will be encouraging companies to send less food waste to landfill and will be working with charities and food manufacturers to remove barriers to food donation,” he said.

As part of this drive, Taylor announced a £1.5m funding increase for the Government’s waste prevention loan fund, which is being facilitated by WRAP. The fund aims to improve resource efficiency for businesses, local authorities and the third sector and will sit alongside a grant scheme to help support product reuse for SMEs.

However Defra’s director for waste Dr Colin Church sounded a note of caution over the Government’s waste prevention programme. He told delegates it was “proving remarkably difficult” to engage key stakeholders in the process.

“It’s been quite a revelation to us on how hard is it to engage people outside of the waste industry about this,” he said, adding that part of the problem could be the “transitional phase” the sector is going through as it looks to reposition itself as a resource management industry.

In response to Defra, CIWM chief executive Steve Lee called for a more radical approach from government and pointed to how the devolved governments of Scotland and Wales are legislating for ambitious recycling targets and landfill bans.

“We need long-term vision, we need to know how to perform … there’s a big job to be done here. Without that, we are going to miss out on the contribution we can make to the green growth economy,” he said.

Lee also argued that a portion of landfill tax revenue should be reinvested into the waste industry through the Green Investment Bank.

“Landfill tax will generate around £.5bn a year for the Treasury over the next three years. If we had a fraction of this, we could have £250m a year put into the Green Investment Bank – that dwarfs the minister’s £1.5m announcement today,” he said.

Maxine Perella

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