This was the conclusion of John Cridland, deputy director general of the CBI, when he spoke at the organisation’s waste management efficiency conference this Thursday.

Mr Cridland said waste tended to be the Cinderella of the sustainability debate, eclipsed by the more media-friendly issue of climate change.

This was a shame, he argued, as there were huge gains to be made in improving resource efficiency and cutting waste.

“So many of the opportunities lie in the area of waste management,” he said.

“The good news is that there’s no shortage of willingness amongst businesses to do the right thing [and] some solid progress has already been made.

“[But] no doubt there is still a long way to grow.”

He delivered a critique of Government’s recent waste strategy for England, saying that while it was a positive document on thew whole there were areas that business would like to see tweaked.

Mr Cridland warned that the landfill tax escalator would not help businesses, particularly smaller firms, to use materials more efficiently.

“Sticks alone are not going to be enough,” he said.

A clearer legal definition of waste, more user-friendly regulations and Government leadership on planning were all on the CBI’s waste wish list.

“Gordon Brown has conceded that the planning system is creaking and needs a thorough overhaul,” said Mr Cridland.

He claimed that it was optimistic to think that the necessary infrastructure for municipal waste was likely to be put in place in time to meet European targets, and municipal waste accounted for only 10% of the nation’s total.

He pointed out that while Government had put pressure on local authorities to pass applications for renewable energy facilities, similar weighting was not being given to waste infrastructure.

Mr Cridland said the CBI recognised it was an emotive subject and called for an information campaign on the health and environmental impacts of waste facilities – which must come from government as the public are likely to be more sceptical of claims made by the business community.

He said that the waste hierarchy made an important contribution but argued that it shouldn’t be stuck to slavishly and argued that more energy-from-waste incinerators would be critical to meet the UK’s waste management needs.

“Government must take full advantage of the willingness of business to act,” he said.

Sam Bond

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie