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Chartered Institution of Water and
Environmental Management (CIWEM)

106-109 Saffron Hill, London, EC1N 8QS  
Tel: 020 7831 3110   Fax: 020 7405 4967
 

Waste Management

Purpose

The purpose of this Policy Position Statement is to outline the main issues with respect to the Government's waste strategy for England and Wales, the potential for achieving this and to indicate the implications for and role of CIWEM.


CIWEM's Position on Waste Management

CIWEM's aims relating to waste management are to:

1. Ensure that the UK Government and devolved administrations, as appropriate, a) develop coherent and integrated strategies for waste management at local, national and European levels and  b) promote the development and implementation of European Directives that fully recognise both the interests of the UK waste industry and human health and the environment;

2. Ensure that waste management plans and contracts for waste management services contribute to sustainable development particularly in terms of economic viability and protection of the environment; 

3. Ensure emphasis is given to minimisation of resource use, including energy, to limit or eliminate adverse waste and climate impacts;

4. Ensure that protection of the environment and public health is considered at every stage of design, development and operation of waste management facilities;

5. Encourage the implementation of waste options that promote the top end of the waste hierarchy, creating greater resource efficiency and optimise recycling.


The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) is the leading professional body for the people who plan, protect and care for the environment and its resources, providing educational opportunities, independent information to the public and advice to government. Members in 98 countries include scientists, engineers, ecologists and students.

 

Key Issues

Of particular concern to CIWEM are the following issues:

  • CIWEM supports urgent revision of the current waste strategy, building on existing achievements but focusing primarily on resource efficiency with  greater emphasis on waste prevention and minimisation with  increased producer responsibility;

In particular more should be done to:

  • Assign more of the costs of managing downstream waste to the producer;
  • Improve waste segregation at source to prevent cross-contamination destroying recyclate value;
  • Clarify the role of waste recycling in terms of the waste hierarchy;   
  • Create stronger motivation to shift attitudes and behaviour towards waste, for example with financial incentives; 
  • Incentivise small and medium sized enterprises to improve their waste management practices;
  • Review wastes that can be reclassified as non-waste to facilitate their re-use;
  • Encourage mainstream green accounting through tax allowances based on a coherent, Nationally based framework of carbon life cycle assessment structures; 
  • Realise the immense potential for green jobs, skills and products for export growth in the sector (environmental services/recycling/green design) through appropriate fiscal and regulatory environments;
  • On the proximity principle basis, develop local smaller scale Energy Centres, avoiding large waste incineration plants, saving transport costs.

 

Context

Waste management is a global issue that affects us all at local, regional, national and international scales with the potential to cause harm to the environment and human health, and add to climate change if poorly undertaken. Proper control requires concerted action through the commitment of governments, industry and other sectors. Solutions require strong and lasting partnerships.  Leadership and example are required for public support to be engendered and strategies converted into practical, cost-effective and environmentally sound systems.  These should lead to a reduction in unnecessary use of resources and energy, an increase in recycling, an improved environment, an improved quality of life and sustainable waste management practices.

CIWEM urges  Government  commitment for  funding and to work more closely with Local Authorities and agencies in educating and supporting the general public, communities and industry in good waste management practice.  The Institution also urges environmental and waste management professionals to develop a better sense of partnership through engagement with the public and the third sector organisations, using clear and readily understood language in communications to foster the role of  waste as a resource .


Discussion

The UK generates some 430 million tonnes of waste per annum.  Whilst in recent years an increasing amount of municipal waste has been diverted from landfill and recycled, fundamentally we continue to produce too much waste. Each year as a nation we have increased the waste we produce by an average of 3% (although this rate may reduce in future years). This is not simply a result of demographic changes but reflects a general trend in per capita waste production.  This waste must be disposed of in a manner which meets European and domestic regulations and causes minimal harm to the environment.  The majority of municipal waste produced in England and Wales is still either sent to landfill or for thermal treatment.  These methods may be considered to be unsustainable, consigning otherwise useful materials to land simply to fill voids, or where incineration of waste occurs without energy recovery. Neither of these methods are recognised as the most desirable waste disposal operation, being at the bottom of the internationally accepted waste hierarchy, while still not yet being fully replaceable with other technologies.

Legislation for waste management is becoming increasingly stringent and more focused towards sustainability, raising the importance of the subject at national and local levels. Government has committed to sustainable development in which environmental, economic and social objectives are integrated.  Legislation, strategies and implementation initiatives have been introduced to, among other things, achieve greater levels of recycling of domestic waste in England and Wales. A revised waste strategy for England and Wales, Waste Strategy 2007, was produced based on the waste hierarchy. While commendable it is felt that this is not enough in itself to create the necessary downward pressure on waste generation to break the link with economic growth. More attention for example needs to be paid to the opportunities for waste prevention in the commercial and industrial waste sectors, which should continue to play a greater part in assisting economic recovery.  

European legislation now dominates the direction of waste management generally. This includes instruments such as the Landfill Directive, a range of "producer responsibility" directives on specific waste streams such as packaging, waste electrical and electronic equipment end of life vehicles and batteries and, more recently, a revised Waste Framework Directive due to be implemented by the end of 2010.

Domestically the increase in landfill tax and statutory recycling and landfill diversion targets for Waste Collection and Disposal Local Authorities in England and Wales, have created an imperative to deliver on the commitment to improve waste management and develop more sustainable methods of treating and disposing of municipal waste.

Much emphasis is now placed on recycling but as an environmentally sustainable solution, recycling is only part of the answer. Product design and marketing still often ignore waste management issues contributing to limited waste avoidance and, through poor segregation, to mixed waste streams hampering effective quality recycling. Greater resource efficiency and minimisation of waste, at the top of the waste hierarchy  remain major targets in modern waste management practice. Despite its efforts the UK is currently lagging behind many other European States in this area. Improvements must be made to the system to further promote minimisation of the production of waste supported by a circular flow of resources and materials, designed to facilitate reuse and recycling wherever possible.

Waste prevention and minimisation represent simple and effective means of reducing costs to business and householders. While voluntary initiatives have halted growth in packaging of groceries  for example, much more is required to increase the accountability of those responsible for producing waste. A key problem in tackling waste minimisation is effectively framing requirements for the public and business as many consumers currently cannot exercise control of the "wastes" that they buy as product.

 

Current situation

Public Sector
Statutory recycling targets for each Local Authority for the Landfill Directive are in the process of implementation as well as the reduction of organic waste inputs to landfill through diversion targets.  It is up to each individual Waste Disposal Authority how they achieve the reduction to landfill and for Local Authorities to increase recycling rates to meet their targets.

To date some progress has been made to develop and implement waste strategies that achieve significantly greater recycling rates. A number of important issues including financial viability, regulatory control and public perception have prevented Local Authorities from taking significant steps forward to increase recycling. Initiatives such as "50% clubs" and "Zero Waste" campaigns will help, but further achievements will become progressively harder without additional programmes and more ambitious efforts that may include landfill bans, for example.

Private Sector
The (non-waste industry) private sector has experienced mixed fortunes in its approach to waste management. Some larger organisations with high profile trade associations have been able to obtain benefits from waste and energy saving initiatives such as the "Envirowise" programme. Studies show that this has had limited recognition and the many smaller and medium size enterprises appear to lack access to information or expertise. Regulation, on the other hand, has extended its reach over the years as more producer responsibility initiatives have come on-stream, hazardous waste landfill has been restricted to vastly fewer sites and landfill tax has escalated.

The waste management industry has experienced a shift in its pattern of operation over the past decade or so. Fewer landfills and requirement for waste pre-treatment have driven much of this change, a trend likely to continue, and public sector procurement has produced demand for long term, robust but challenging solutions to deliver the diversion and recycling targets. Yet many technologies beyond conventional waste to landfill or incineration remain relatively underutilised. Composting has emerged with better credentials but experience of pyrolysis and anaerobic digestion is still limited. Further examination of anaerobic digestion in particular should be encouraged.   

Planning and Public acceptability
The planning process for new waste management facilities can cause conflicts at both a national and local level. A lack of public confidence and lengthy procedures mean that it can take many years for consent to be granted to construct a new facility. This results in considerable time and resources being devoted to the approval stages beyond the design and construction of new waste management facilities, slowing the achievement of mandatory recycling targets and diversion from landfill disposal.

More needs to be done still to increase public confidence and ownership of the solutions to ensure that facilities come on stream when required.  The Advantage West Midlands methodology for site identification and Community dialogue could be usefully developed as a National standard.

 

August 2010

 
Note: CIWEM Policy Position Statements (PPS) represent the Institution's views on issues at a particular point in time.  It is accepted that situations change as research provides new evidence.  It should be understood, therefore, that CIWEM PPS's are under constant review and that previously held views may alter and lead to revised PPS's.

 

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Chartered Institution of Water and
Environmental Management (CIWEM)

106-109 Saffron Hill, London, EC1N 8QS  
Tel: 020 7831 3110   Fax: 020 7405 4967

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