Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) (U16)


  WRAP is pleased to have this opportunity to submit written evidence to the inquiry of the Efra Committee looking at climate change.

  WRAP was created in 2001 with a mission to accelerate resource efficiency. We seek to do this by creating stable and efficient markets for recycled materials and products, and removing barriers to waste minimisation, re-use and recycling. Operating on a UK-wide basis and funded by Defra, the DTI and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, WRAP recently published a Business Plan for 2004-06 detailing the structure and priorities of our work over the next three years and outlining a number of challenging targets.[37]

  WRAP is working with both the public and private sectors to increase markets for six individual material streams: paper, plastics, glass, organics, wood and aggregates. It is also working on major programmes aimed at increasing the procurement of recycled products, improving standards for recycled materials, and is undertaking a series of initiatives to stimulate investment in capacity for processing recovered materials.


  Within the recycling industry one issue that has become highly relevant in recent years is that of energy saving and the effect that this can have on tackling climate change.

  Extensive industry research has revealed that the recycling of a number of specific waste streams has the benefit of not just diverting waste from landfill but also reducing greenhouse gas emissions as a result of the reduced energy required to produce goods in comparison with manufacturing goods from virgin materials. Research to date has calculated the following savings are attributable to the following specific material streams:


% Energy saving

(International Aluminium Institute)
(Corus Group)
(Oxford Brookes University)
(Enviros Consulting, 2004 Report)

  The following report examines research findings to date and assesses further potential for the reduction of greenhouse gases through an increase in the domestic and commercial rate of recycling.


  Following the publication of the 2001 European Commission report entitled "Waste Management Options and Climate Change"[38], WRAP engaged the authors of the report, AEA Technology, to research further the effect of increasing the recycling rate on greenhouse gas reductions for the UK. The results of this work indicated the possibility of substantial CO2 savings with an increase in the rate of recycling and increases in recycling industry capacity.

  The estimation of CO2 reductions was based upon predicted increases in the recycling of Municipal Solid Waste taking the then current best practice (Daventry Council) and extrapolating it to predict a possible future scenario. A variety of material streams such as aluminium, textiles, wood and putrescibles were considered in addition to the standard streams measured in household recycling statistics. The report concluded that CO2 savings could equate to 10-15% of the UK's Kyoto obligation in a best case scenario from recycling.

  Recognising that gaps exist in the available data, WRAP decided to undertake its own estimation of CO2 reduction benefits attributable to the household recycling rate, this is one of the few areas of waste recycling that has accurate material specific recycling data.

  The Defra Municipal Waste Survey for 2002-03 gives the latest available data for household waste recycling in England with the level at 14.5%. This data was entered into the table below for the major material streams to calculate the CO2 savings from using recyclate rather than virgin materials in the production of new materials.

Recycled (thousand tonnes)
Energy saving
CO2 saving (tonnes per MWh)**
CO2 saving (thousand tonnes)

Other metal

  For the year 2002-03 it is estimated that approximately 1.8 million tonnes of CO2 was avoided as a result of household recycling.


  *  Energy saving per tonne for using recycled materials instead of virgin materials in production of new materials. Source: respective organisations quoted in "Energy savings per Material" chart on page 2.

  ** Where 1MWh = 3600 MJ = 3.6 GJ (1 Watt is 1 Joule per second).

  Projecting this forward, the following table is based on modelling carried out by the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit in the "Waste Not Want Not" report[39] in 2002 that looked at the potential CO2 savings to be gained by achieving the Government's recycling targets for household waste in England:


  The UK's current Kyoto obligation is to reduce CO2 emissions by 12.5% based upon the 1990 base year figure by the year 2008. In addition to this the UK Government has set its own target for cutting carbon dioxide to 20% of 1990 levels by 2010.

  By extrapolating our current recycling data in line with government requirements for household recycling in England in 2010 we can estimate that CO2 savings of 3.2 million tonnes would be achieved, this would represent 2.5% of the government's overall target for CO2 reduction detailed in the UK Climate Change Programme.

  This is a modest but important contribution to the UK Government's Climate Change Programme. We would also remind the Committee that the above estimate only concerns household waste, which accounted for just 6.6% (25 million tonnes) of total UK waste arisings (375 million tonnes) in 2002-03. The chart below illustrates the composition of total waste a risings and is based upon data ranging from 1998-2002. Household waste is estimated as "making up 80%" of the total of Municipal waste.


  There are still limitations to the accuracy of material specific recycling data in the majority of the sectors that contribute most to waste arisings, however the CO2 saving potential is clearly evident when you consider that the CO2 savings attributable to all paper recycled in the UK in 2003-03 (4.5 million tonnes) was around 2.5 million tonnes alone.

  The above research is supported by the conclusion of the most comprehensive research undertaken to date in the field of recycling and climate change, the 2001 European Commission report entitled "Waste Management Options and Climate Change" (referenced on page 2 of this submission), which stated:

    "The study has shown that overall the source segregation of MSW (municipal Solid Waste) followed by recycling (for paper, metals, textiles and plastics) and composting/AD (Anaerobic Digestion)(for putrescible wastes) gives the lowest net flux of green house gases, compared with other options for the treatment of bulk MSW."

  With regards to the CO2 benefits that can be derived from composting of green waste, WRAP will undertake further research in this area in order to establish the magnitude of the emission savings. This will be part of a major new study we are commissioning to fully evaluate the environmental benefits of our work programmes and in particular the CO2 savings from our recycling and waste minimisation programmes. This will be published in March 2005.


  WRAP would like the Committee to consider the central message of this submission that the recycling and composting of household waste is having an important impact in reducing CO2 emissions. While WRAP acknowledges that the energy and transport sectors are the biggest contributors to UK CO2 emissions and the primary focus of action to tackle climate change, recycling also plays its part. As European legislation, particularly the Landfill Directive, and UK Government policy drives current and future increases in recycling and composting activity, the benefits in terms of CO2 savings and our collective capacity to quantify this will only increase.

  We are encouraged by the Prime Minister's words during a keynote speech[40] on climate change in September 2004 in which he said:

    " . . . we will help business cut waste and improve resource efficiency and competitiveness through a programme of new measures funded through landfill tax receipts. We will follow up the report of the Sustainable Buildings Task Group to raise environmental standards in construction."

  WRAP is one of the many organisations working to accelerate resource efficiency and was represented on the Sustainable Buildings Task Group. As mentioned in this report, we are involved in activity to assess how our work is contributing to the Government's wider ambitions on climate change and would be pleased to send the Committee details of this study when it is published next year.

1 October 2004

37   WRAP Business Plan 2004-2006: Back

38   European Commission "Waste Management Options and Climate Change" report (July 2001): Back

39   Strategy Unit report "Waste not, Want not-A strategy for tackling the waste problem in England" (November 2002): Back

40   Prime Minister's Prince of Wales Business and the Environment Programme anniversary lecture in Whitehall (14 September 2004): Back

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