Waste managers urge business to address re-use - the 'neglected child' of waste hierarchy
The business case for product re-use is being restricted by poor engagement, financial constraints and a general lack of good practice guidance, a new report from a UK resource and waste management industry body has claimed.
The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) commissioned the ‘State of the Nations’ report to make the case for a renewed focus on re-use, an issue it suggests has too often been regarded as the "neglected child" of the waste hierarchy.
Based on responses from private waste management companies, re-use organisations and local authorities, CIWM's report finds that the re-use sector is emerging as an industry capable of significant growth. The paper suggests that sector progress can be accelerated by addressing specific issues such as strategic delivery, communications and engagement and policy development.
The report was launched earlier this week by incoming CIWM President, Professor Margaret Bates, who said: “Evidence showed a very resilient sector which thrives on the commitment of individuals. Through their hard work and tenacity, the wider benefits of re-use, which extend way beyond the diversion of materials for a second life, are being realised and lives are being changed.
“We have an obligation as a collective industry to support the progress of this sector and maximise the opportunities that reuse can bring.”
The report highlights various specific positive developments of partnerships between the public and private sector, although it concedes that these are often ad hoc and informal.
Several recommendations for industry and Government are put forward. The report advocates the wider promotion of existing good practice and guidance through support for smaller independent re-use organisations, and collaborative efforts between key industry bodies to promote knowledge sharing and to maximise the impact of existing communications campaigns.
Capacity and skills building are also identified as priorities. Practical solutions include enhanced cross-sector engagement between reuse groups and local authorities, in addition to additional skills support to accommodate the diverse nature of re-use organisations, and the significant number of micro-enterprises that characterise the sector.
In addition to more widespread adoption of good practice, the report states that the long-term outlook for re-use would be improved by a stronger framework more conducive to investment.
CIWM suggests that the re-use sector thrives despite the shortcomings of current Government strategy, but could advance significantly under a more enabling policy environment. Recommended measures include specific re-use targets, incentivisation through Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) schemes, and standardised data collection metrics to improve reporting and benchmarking.
Bates added: “This is a relatively neglected area of waste policy and yet one which has so much to offer both in practical terms and as a vehicle to raise wider awareness about waste prevention – a difficult message to get across in today’s consumption driven society.
"One of my aims during the next year is to explore how CIWM can act as a focal point for some of the recommendations put forward in this report.”
The report comes during a period of personnel change within the CIWM organisation. Bates, who arrives in her new role after 25 years' involvement in the waste management sector, used her inaugural CIWM speech to call for “robust, fit for purpose policy and legislation” and a “culture of innovation that is supported and can respond to change”.
Professor Bates is joined by new CIWM chief executive Dr Colin Church, who replaced outgoing chief executive Steve Lee at the start of the week. On entering the role, former Defra director Church voiced his concerns about the future of waste and resources policy, particularly around Britain’s decision to leave the European Union (EU).
CIWM recently released its Presidential report, which explored various EU approaches and solutions to packaging waste in the wake of Brexit.