Data estimates for commercial and industrial (C&I) waste arisings in England show a 29% reduction over the last six years. These results, released as part of a DEFRA survey, demonstrate the efforts taken by businesses to improve resource efficiency despite a floundering national waste policy.
In 2009 48 million tonnes of C&I waste was produced in England. This compares to 68 million tonnes in 2002/03, the last time the survey was carried out. The results also show greater levels of recycling of C&I waste (up 10% over period) and a reduction (12%) in volume of waste sent to landfill.
Whilst DEFRA is keen to show evidence that its policies are decoupling economic growth from waste production it has remained tight-lipped on C&I performance. This is, in part, due to the fact that the method for data collection is reliant on a number of estimates, and with changes to waste classifications the results are not entirely comparable with earlier surveys in 1998/99 and 2002/03. Equally, DEFRA remains unclear over the effect the recession has had on waste arisings.
There is, however, common acceptance that waste is reducing and that this trend is reflected across all waste types with the exception of “discarded equipment” (i.e. waste electrical and electronic equipment). Yet without confidence in the data it remains difficult to judge overall performance and to ensure that policies are delivering on their objectives and to time.
The survey data will undoubtedly be used to shape the government's Waste Review which is expected in April. However, to get a full understanding of waste trends in England the Government must get a proper grip on waste data to ensure its policies facilitate further reductions which help not hinder business. Until this is achieved the goal of a ‘zero waste economy' seems a long way off.