The Rewards of Recycling – A ‘Zero Waste Economy’
In the heavily industrialised world of today, finding new ways to recycle and reuse waste materials is as important as ever. England alone – a country with a population of only 50 million – produces 228 million tonnes of waste every year from businesses and households. Not only is this wasteful use of resources inefficient and costly, it also has a negative environmental impact; huge landfill deposits generate methane – a harmful greenhouse gas
All of this has prompted the government to make inroads towards a ‘zero waste economy’. This doesn’t mean a complete disappearance of all waste, merely a more effective and resourceful approach to creating value for waste, finding different ways to reuse materials that brings both environmental and financial gain.
Back in 2011, plans were drawn up by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to outline the government’s strategy for the zero waste economy, titled the Waste Prevention Programme for England. It included a number of restrictions on what can be sent to landfill, beginning with wood waste and moving on to metals, textiles and other biodegradable materials, as well as incentives for both household and business recycling, focusing on the hospitality industry, junk mail and construction waste. Stricter regulations to cut down on illegal fly tipping – a practice that is incredibly damaging to the environment – such as the right to seize vehicles suspected of being involved, as well as being able to enforce punishments that include culprits cleaning up any waste they have dumped.
The programme will also work on ways to educate people as to ways in which they can help to cut down on needless waste, including working with the food and drink sector to prevent food waste, simpler ways to recycle household and business waste, and more detailed instructions on ways in which to reuse items that would ordinarily be thrown out.
Improving the quality of materials that are recycled would also strengthen the market for recycled items, both domestically and internationally, while plans to make businesses more responsible for the materials they use and produce (packaging, electrical equipment, vehicle emissions) looks to cut down on wastefulness in the commercial sector.
The necessity for this new directive is clear. Despite the amount of waste going to landfill almost halving since the turn of the Millennium, the rate must increase if the UK is to meet green targets and catch up with the rest of Europe. With this in mind, an analysis of the progress made by the Waste Prevention Programme will be carried out in December 2013, ensuring that aims are being met and that the initiative is in line with any updates to EU regulations.