8.European Union law has largely driven the policy and legal frameworks for waste management in the UK. The revised EU Waste Framework Directive (2008) sets out five steps for dealing with waste, ranked according to their environmental impact; this is known as the waste hierarchy. The waste hierarchy has been incorporated into UK law through the Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2011, the Waste Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2011, and the Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2012.
9.To make the hierarchy easier to use by businesses in the food and drink sector, WRAP produced a specific food and drink material hierarchy.
Figure 1: WRAP: Food and Drink material hierarchy
10.The food waste hierarchy sets out steps for preventing and managing food waste to minimise the impact on the environment. The best action is to prevent raw materials, ingredients and products from becoming waste in the first place. If surplus cannot be prevented, then redistribution to people and then animal feed is the next best option. The best way of treating food waste is to recycle it by sending it to anaerobic digestion or composting. Recovery through the incineration of waste with energy recovery comes next in the hierarchy. At the bottom of the hierarchy, the worst way of dealing with food waste is disposal through waste incineration without energy recovery or to send it to landfill.
11.During the inquiry, witnesses expressed concern that the waste hierarchy was not being enforced. The Environment Agency has a duty to enforce the waste hierarchy. The Anaerobic Digestion and Bioresources Association (ADBA) told us that “it was frustrating that there has been no enforcement [of the waste hierarchy]”.
12.There was also concern that ‘perverse’ incentives by the Government to encourage anaerobic digestion had resulted in unintentionally moving waste further down the hierarchy. We examine this in further detail in Chapter 4.
13.We asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Environment and Rural Life Opportunities, Dr Thérèse Coffey MP, what conversations she had had with the Environment Agency, in their role of enforcing the waste hierarchy. We were disappointed to hear that the Minister had not had any discussions with the Environment Agency on this issue.
14.The waste hierarchy exists to prevent and manage food waste and to minimise the impact on the environment. We are concerned at reports that the waste hierarchy, whilst widely acknowledged as necessary, is apparently not being enforced. We recommend that the incoming Government works with the Environment Agency to enforce the waste hierarchy, for the benefit of all.
7 Council Directive
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26 April 2017