Waste Management in the UK
The UK Government is committed to being greenest ever. How we deal with our waste is important for a range of broader concerns such as material security, energy, climate change and environmental protection. The government’s ambition is to move towards a Zero Waste Economy: not an economy where no waste is produced, but one where resources are fully valued.
- Around 40% of waste from households is currently recycled
- The average residual waste per person has reduced by 76kg since 2006/07 to 275kg/person/year
- 52 per cent of commercial and industrial waste is recycled or reused.
- 55% of municipal waste generated in the UK is sent to landfill.
A new UK target to recycle 50% of household waste by 2020 has been set, along with a commitment to target waste streams with high carbon impacts, both in terms of embedded carbon and direct emissions from landfill. The landfill tax remains the key driver to divert waste from landfill.
It is estimated that the UK requires £8 billion of investment to meet the 2020 landfill diversion targets and independent reports provide some support for the view that there is shortfall in residual waste treatment facilities.
The Governments role
In the UK, local government is responsible for waste collection and disposal authorities. This covers municipal waste collection, recycling collection, street cleaning and litter collection, municipal waste disposal, provision of local collection points, waste strategy & planning.
The Environment Agency oversees the waste and environmental regulations in England and Wales; Scottish Environmental Protection Agency in Scotland, and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency in Northern Ireland.
WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) operates throughout the UK and offers a range of support, including the provision of some funding. A number of their priority areas are linked to the waste sector such as preventing food and drink waste, improving the collection of materials for recycling and reuse, recycling organic waste and recovering energy, increasing the reuse and recycling of priority products.