Waste management in England - Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee Contents

1  Introduction

1. About 177 million tonnes of waste is thrown away every year in England.[1] In 2012/13, about 22.6 million tonnes of this total volume was household waste, amounting to 423 kilograms of waste per person.[2] This equates to an average person throwing away five times their body weight in waste each year.[3] Discarding so much waste is a poor use of resources and has detrimental economic and environmental impacts. Green Alliance told us that household waste "is probably a ninth of the total availability of resources we could get back in this country".[4]

2. The aim of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is to move towards a 'zero waste economy': a society where resources are fully valued, financially and environmentally. However, in November 2013, Dan Rogerson MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for water, forestry, rural affairs and resource management, wrote to interested parties to inform them of reductions in Defra's activities in waste management following a re-prioritisation of Government work to make the best use of public funding.

3. Consequently, from April 2014, Defra has "stepped back in areas where businesses are better placed to act and there is no clear market failure."[5] Defra has not given a definitive list of these areas, but the announcement indicated that the Department will decrease or withdraw its support for proactive energy-from-waste policy development; programmes of work on anaerobic digestion and food waste; and generic support for local authorities in relation to waste contracts and related areas.

Our inquiry

4. This inquiry was triggered by Defra's "stepping back" announcement in order to examine existing approaches to recycling and treatment of municipal waste in England, and to assess the impact that the reduction of Defra's activities in municipal waste management could have. Written submissions and transcripts of five oral evidence sessions are published on our website.[6] We are grateful to all who provided evidence.

1   Gov.uk, Reducing and managing waste, 2 July 2014 Back

2   Defra, Statistics on waste managed by local authorities in England in 2012/13, 7 November 2013 Back

3   The average adult weight in the UK is 75.8kg, based on data from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, published in the journal BMC Public Health. Back

4   Q101 [Julie Hill] Back

5   Defra [WME 0072] Annex A Back

6   Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Waste Management in England inquiry page Back

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Prepared 22 October 2014