Government must prevent wasted opportunities

The UK government’s zero waste economy objective is highly desirable but unrealistic.  We need to push responsibility for waste up the supply chain and put a brake on waste by design. In its latest report, CIWEM challenges government to ensure that everyone takes responsibility for waste – not just the waste management sector.

In the next two decades, up to three billion people are expected to join the global middle class, coinciding with a 30% rise in demand for oil, coal, iron ore and other natural resources in just half that time, says the Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management’s (CIWEM) in its new waste report, Less is more: waste prevention and resource optimisation across a lifecycle.      

CIWEM advocates that an integrated, life cycle approach would help to preserve natural capital, reduce externalities and increase efficiency.  Defra shouldn’t bear sole responsibility for this says CIWEM; high profile, cross-government actions from the departments of DECC, DCLG, BIS and the Treasury will be required to make the UK’s economy and society one of the most resource efficient in the world.

Advocating that this is not solely an issue for the waste management industry, the report encourages the government to ask more from businesses who currently have full authority to supply products with no environmental responsibility for their impact.  By looking at materials at the beginning of the production process, there is the potential to prevent waste by design.  

CIWEM’s Executive Director, Nick Reeves OBE, says: “Leading businesses have shown that is it possible to undertake circular activities across the supply chain. The circular economy, like energy security and resource efficiency all makes clear business sense.  We now need to translate and mainstream this ambition throughout the public sector to SMEs and to the wider public.

“Brave, ambitious and innovative political decision is a must if we are to keep our resource priorities down.  We welcome the shadow waste and water minister’s recent proposal for an Office for Resource Security and pledge to join up policy and drive action across Whitehall.  This support for the circular economy is a step in the right direction.  We need to stop measuring success by the balance sheet and get a proper fix on our place in a world that is running on empty.”  

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