When the government announced its review of England’s waste policies we were urged to reconsider waste as a commodity and a useful resource. Government in turn said it would assess current policy with the aim of promoting better use of resources, simplifying regulation and improving infrastructure and services.
Six months on from the review we look at whether this has increased the opportunity for manufacturers to be resource efficient. While we welcome government’s focus on trying to make it easier for businesses to “do the right thing” we conclude that government should have been more ambitious.
UK manufacturing can benefit commercially from a resourceful economy as a result of access to high quality and secure supplies materials to feed into production and the cost savings that can be achieved through being inherently more resource efficient. Indeed, in a recent survey of manufacturing executives, 80 per cent now regard a shortage of raw materials as a risk to their business. Of these, two thirds said it was their top risk. We need government to develop a resource management strategy so that materials can flow more easily within the economy.
We argue that more should be done to reduce the regulatory burdens created by waste legislation. Currently, legislation is based on out-dated practices where waste was discarded and usually disposed of at landfills. It is confusing, disjointed and can inadvertently act as a barrier to resource efficiency. Simpler ways of defining this resource and how it can be recovered would stimulate better solutions. New approaches highlighting what is permissible would help simplify the confusing legislative framework. In some cases legislation has achieved its aims and should be removed or retargeted to where it is actually needed.
Finally, we welcome new work to improve access to local authority infrastructure and the services provided by the waste management industry. We hope this marks the start of an ongoing process to open access to local authority waste infrastructure and ensure all businesses get access to affordable waste facilities and a high-quality service from their waste contractors. Government should also intervene to help establish a broader range of specialised waste treatment facilities and ensure that business support programmes are backed by good communication, advice and funds.