WRAP on demand

The government's Waste Strategy 2000, published in May, announced the establishment of WRAP - the Waste and Resources Action Programme, formally launched last month - as a new body dedicated to overcome market barriers to promoting re-use and recycling. Matt MacAllan reports.

Of WRAP, Waste Strategy 2000 said: “The programme’s overarching objective will be to promote more sustainable waste management. In the first instance, it will focus on developing markets and end uses for secondary materials, and promoting an integrated approach to materials resource use.” Fresh impetus then, given Landfill Directive-imposed reductions of 75%, 50% and 35% on 1995 waste arisings going to landfill by 2010, 2013 and 2020 respectively.

Filling a gap

WRAP’s role, according to Vic Cocker, recently retired chief executive of Severn Trent and chair of the Programme, is one of filling a gap in the Waste Strategy as it stands at present. (The UK’s record on managing industrial and commercial waste is better than that of municipal waste. A recent report by environmental consultants Enviros had the UK languishing last out of 11 European countries, with the lowest combined municipal recycling and composting rate (nine per cent) and the highest landfill rate (83%)). Waste Strategy 2000 set a target of a 15% reduction of industrial and commercial waste going to landfill, based on 1998 levels, by 2005. A role, says Cocker, of “pulling together all the different strands which are needed to actually facilitate real increases in recycling and reuse”.

WRAP itself, however, at this stage at least – the programme currently resides in eighth-floor temporary accommodation – has no targets of its own. The strategy is one of market creation, built on the premise that recycling capacity is limited and that limiting factors, e.g. unexploited opportunities and technology gaps, can be identified via investigation into individual waste streams, and bridged. WRAP’s first projects will include:

  • Product Standards Programme, to involve working with current and potential users of recycled materials to identify the type of standards which will create confidence in the market; establishing standards where they do not currently exist; and working with producers to enhance existing standards where necessary.
  • Buy Recycled in Business, a long-term project to alert manufacturers to the range of potential uses of recycled materials. As a first stage, WRAP will work with exemplar companies which already have a strong policy to buy recycled, and disseminate lessons learned to other potential users.
  • “The conclusion that we are coming to,” says Cocker, “is that the starting point in all of these areas is going to be demand, such that the task is to generate demand where we can and then try and pull through the capacity and the back-up infrastructure.”

    Generating demand

    Generating demand means identifying profitable, if unusual, uses for recycled materials. Easy enough, you might think, for highly specified materials such as plastic and paper, but then less so for other materials. A recent move, pictured left, perhaps serves as an example: RMC Aggregates has joined forces with public-private sector partnership London Waste Action and packaging waste compliance scheme Valpak in a move which will see London’s streets maintained and repaired with “glassphalt” – recycled aggregates made partly from glass. Joint Venture research with industrial and commercial partners in this vein will, it is envisaged, play an important part in WRAP.

    Cocker is keen to stress the pragmatic approach; that “blunt instruments, on the whole, are not going to work. It has got to be the surgeon’s scalpel. Examine the detailed economics of the situation and try and figure out which parameter you have to change in order to make it work.

    “So you start with the overview and examine strategically where the gap is to be filled. Take technology: are there appropriate technologies to fill the gap? Are there problems with that technology? If so, we may choose to invest in developing technologies that already exist, or maybe even encouraging some that don’t.”

    Supported by £30m of DTI, DETR, Scottish Executive and Welsh Assembly funding over three years, WRAP has been established as an independent not-for-profit company limited by guarantee. The Programme will also be seeking funding from other sources, including the private sector, and will be looking to build funding partnerships between the public, private and voluntary sectors. WRAP will register as an environmental body, able to accept voluntary contributions for approved activities under the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme.

    Jennie Price, formerly chief executive of the Construction Federation, is due to take up the role of WRAP chief executive on January 1. She cites WRAP as “something which is intrinsically valuable, because when you actually start reading the Waste Strategy, you only have to get to the bottom of page one to realise that something has to be done differently”.

    She concludes: “If demand is there then opportunity is there, and that, I hope, will draw in the investment.”

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