The Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs
Committee has agreed to the following Report:
DELIVERING SUSTAINABLE WASTE MANAGEMENT
1. Waste is not one of the more captivating environmental
issues which attract high-profile international conferences and
a running media commentary. Instead, it is characterised by a
lack of public profile and knowledge: many businesses and most
householders have an 'out of sight, out of mind' approach to waste
disposal with few considering what happens after the 'black sack'
or wheelie-bin is collected. Increasingly, though, as a society
we are all being forced to look at waste issues rather more closely
and make tough decisions about precisely what we should be doing
with our waste. This Committee has a long history of consideration
of this issue and has produced a number of Reports on waste issues
during the last ten years.
2. Perhaps the most depressing aspect of conducting
inquiries into waste matters is that a sense of déjà
vu pervades some of the evidence we receive and, ultimately,
the Report we produce. For example, in 1998, we stressed that:
"At present 20 per cent of the world's
population uses 80 per cent of the world's resources: the other
80 per cent - the population of the developing world - uses only
20 per cent of these resources. Such inequality cannot continue."
Although the case for waste minimisation and more
efficient resource use is now widely accepted, such inequality
has continued more or less unchallenged since we wrote those words.
Action to bring more efficient resource use and help minimise
waste has been conspicuous by its absence.
3. We also expressed our:
"profound disappointment ... that waste management
in this country is still characterised by inertia, careless administration
and ad hoc, rather than science-based decisions. Lip-service
alone, in far too many instances, has been paid to the principles
of reducing waste and diverting it from disposal. Cental Government
has lacked the commitment, and local government the resources,
to put a sustainable waste management strategy into practice."
Although some progress has been made since then,
the thrust of our conclusions is little changed more than two
4. As such, it is difficult fully to express our
disappointment with the continuing inertia and low level of expectation
which characterise waste management in this country. As a nation,
we produce too much waste, we fail to re-use, recycle or compost
enough of what we do produce and we now appear to be planning
to shift a good portion of that waste from the least attractive
option, landfill, to the second least attractive one, incineration.
Yet some cities and countries around the world are being ambitious
and are aiming to provide the much talked about 'step change'
in waste management. For examples of the enthusiasm we are talking
about, one can look to the 'Zero Waste by 2020' plan for Western
Canberra's success in increasing its recycling rate from near
zero to 59% in just 8 years
and Flanders' shift from 18% to 59% recycling in seven years.
These places started earlier than us and have aimed higher. Such
ambition brings the rewards of jobs, a cleaner environment and,
ultimately, a more sustainable waste management system. But instead
of using these as examples of what can be achieved, many seem
happier to carp and question the potential to replicate such vision
or achievement here in England.
5. The majority of those involved with waste in
this country appear to be guilty of thinking without imagination
and planning without ambition, of finding problems instead of
solutions and aiming for short-term goals without a vision of
the system of resource use and waste management which we should
be striving for. The failure to implement real and ambitious change
in waste management is all the more disappointing since the Government
has had almost two full years between our previous Report and
the publication of the Waste Strategy 2000. It is obvious
to us that the Strategy fails to reflect the thrust of that Report
and that many of our recommendations have been disregarded.
Page xi, Sustainable Waste
Management, Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee,
HC 484-I (1997-98) Back
Page xiv, Sustainable
Waste Management, Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs
Committee, HC484-I (1997-98) Back
Waste 2020 Draft Strategy.
Towards zero waste by 2020 Western Australia, August 2000 Back