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STRATEGY UNIT REPORT CALLS FOR A FOCUS ON WASTE REDUCTION AND MORE RECYCLING

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A new report from the prime minister's strategy unit calls for greater efforts to reduce the rate of waste growth a...
A new report from the prime minister's strategy unit calls for greater efforts to reduce the rate of waste growth and for more re-use and recycling to combat the country's growing rubbish mountain.

The report - Waste Not, Want Not- sets out a series of practical and cost-effective measures for putting waste management in England on a more environmentally sustainable path. It seeks to reduce the current dependence on landfill as the primary method of disposing of waste. The nation's present over-dependence on landfill squanders potentially valuable resources; produces damaging greenhouse gases; and has raised concerns about pollution and nuisance for families living near landfill sites.

According to the strategy unit's report to the government, without urgent action England's municipal waste will double in volume by 2020, and will cost£3.2bn per year to dispose of - twice as much in real terms as we spend now. It points out that household waste is growing at 3% per year - which is faster than GDP growth and

faster than in many other EU nations. We produce more waste per head than in many other EU nations and recycle less.

It says that a revolution in waste management can be achieved with action in three key areas:

Reduction

The report recommends that government should aim to reduce the rate of waste growth to below growth in GDP and make reduction schemes the central core of a sustainable strategy for waste management. It calls for a cut in the rate of waste growth through more money for waste minimisation programmes; boosting home composting and other initiatives; providing advice to industry on waste reduction; and working with industry to extend voluntary producer responsibility schemes.

More Recycling

The report recommends that the government should aim to boost recycling and re-use of products by funding the roll-out of kerbside recycling to all homes, creating more 'bring sites', and providing better education and awareness programmes to help people to recycle effectively.

Greater responsibility

The Strategy Unit calls for a partnership between householders, local authorities, businesses and the government to tackle waste - starting with more education for households and businesses. The unit encourages local councils to be more innovative. It recommends that the government should remove restrictions which prevent local

authorities from using incentives and discounts to reward householders who reduce their waste and recycle more. The report also calls on central and local government to reduce and recycle their waste, and use more recycled materials.

Prime minister Tony Blair said:

'The UK has a good track record on environmental issues. Our rivers and streams are seeing long-lost wildlife return, our beaches and seas are cleaner than ever, and urban air quality is markedly better.

'But more needs to be done on waste, which is why I asked the strategy unit to look at how we could do better. Their report shows clearly that a different approach to waste management will pay both economic and environmental dividends.

'This report to government sets out a clear analysis of the choices that now need to be faced. We must meet its challenge.'

Margaret Beckett, secretary of state for the environment, food and rural affairs, was sponsor minister for the project. She said:

'Each person in the UK produces about seven times their own weight in waste every year. We produce more waste per head than most other EU nations and recycle less.

'It is clear that we can't go on simply putting more and more waste in more and more holes in the ground. Doing nothing is the worst value-for-money option. The mounting problem would mean costs doubling without the environmental benefits that come from improved waste management programmes.

'We need to change our ways - and this report points the way towards a more sustainable waste management policy.'

Key recommendations of the strategy unit report include:

- Raising the level of Landfill Tax to£35 per tonne in the medium term to create the economic conditions for industry and local authorities to develop alternatives to landfill and in recognition of the long-term environmental costs caused by landfill. Increases in the tax should be signalled well in advance to give businesses and local authorities ample time to adjust.

- Reforming the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme to fund programmes to reduce waste reduction, boost kerbside recycling, raise awareness and develop a wider range of options for waste management.

- Tackling waste growth - through education, an extension of home composting, programmes to reduce waste for households and industry - led by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) and Envirowise. Develop waste minimisation targets for local authorities.

- Allowing local councils, who want to do so, to use discounts and reward schemes to encourage more householders to reduce waste and recycle more.

- More rigorous prosecution of flytipping and other waste crimes.

- Increasing re-use - through a variety of pilot schemes such as bottle/container returns, refurbished white goods etc.

- Boosting the recycling rate to at least 45% of household waste, and home composting to 50% of households taking part, by 2015 - by funding national kerbside recycling, more bring sites and better designed civic amenity sites. New infrastructure to be accompanied by education so households can use new systems effectively. This also needs a development of recycling markets through an expanded WRAP.

- Developing a wider set of alternatives for managing waste, that cannot be cost-effectively recycled or re-used. A wider range of options is used on the continent e.g. mechanical and biological treatment, gasification and pyrolysis, and digestion.

- Creating an operational task force to spread best practice between local authoritiesand develop sound waste plans. Incentives to encourage local authorities and tiers of local authorities to work together more effectively to manage waste.

Notes

1. The strategy unit reports directly to the prime minister through cabinet secretary Sir Andrew Turnbull. Its aim is to improve the capacity of government to address strategic, cross-cutting issues and promote innovation in the development of policy, and in the delivery of the government's objectives.

2. The strategy unit waste study was announced by Margaret Beckett, secretary of state for the environment, food and rural affairs at a waste summit on 21 November 2001.

3. The project was asked to look at waste management only in England because waste management is a devolved issue. However, it took into account what is happening in other parts of the UK.

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