Managing waste sustainably: regional challenges and opportunities
(17 June 2005)
A major event, which will examine the economic, social and environmental impact of rising volumes of waste in the North East and how it can be managed sustainably, takes place at Durham University next week (June 20th).
A one-day regional waste workshop is being held at St. Aidan¡¦s College in the first waste management event of its kind to be held in the region for many years and up to 50 key delegates will be in attendance
The event combines current research and best practice and brings together policy makers and stakeholders from across the North east including local authorities, business and community organisations concerned with recycling, re-use and waste reduction initiatives.
They will be joined by academics from the Universities of Sheffield, Northumbria and Leeds as well of the research team from Durham University¡¦s Department of Geography who are leading a project which seeks to examine what facilitates and what prevents the development and implementation of sustainable municipal waste policy in the North East.
Leading the research, which has now been running for 18 months, is Dr Harriet Bulkeley who says that the region a faces particular challenges in managing waste more sustainably.
Latest statistics show that while nationally 72 per cent of municipal waste is landfilled the North East and North West have the higher levels of waste arising at over 29 kg per household. Municipal waste landfilled in the North East has decreased from 78 per cent in 2001-2 to 70 per cent in 2003-4.
The household waste recycling rate in the North East has increased from 5.2 per cent in 2001-2 to 6.6 per cent in 2002-3 and now stands at 11.9 per cent, but this is still one of the lowest in the country,
The workshop has attracted some key speakers and Dr. Bulkeley says that they will critically address the importance of the economic, social and environmental consequences of the issues surrounding sustainable waste management.
Ann Link, is theDirector of the Women's Environment Network - it is 'real nappy' week. WEN have a key role in promoting the use of cloth nappies
Amy Glover, from DEFRA, will discuss the roll out of the new 'Local authorities trading scheme' for waste management - this works like the 'emissions trading' scheme for carbon dioxide, but with permits for the disposal of waste. It will radically change waste management in the UK over the next 5-10 years.
A representative from WRAP, the government agency responsible for increasing awareness about waste recycling, reduction and re-use, will discuss the development of home composting initiatives - critical to the achievement of EU targets.
For further information contact : Dr. Harriet Bulkeley, Department of Geography, Tel 0191 334 1940 e-mail :firstname.lastname@example.org
Media enquiries to : Tom Fennelly Public Relations Office, Durham University Tel 0191 334 6078 e-mail: email@example.com
Notes to editors
In the wake of rapid changes to the landscape of municipal waste policy (MWP), the Governing Sustainable Waste Management project research has found that a wide range of factors are driving radical change in the UK. These include:
Rising volumes of waste
The declining availability of acceptable landfill sites
Growing policy and pubic salience of environmental concern
EU waste policy and directives
National targets, initiatives, and funding schemes
These drivers have produced definite changes, most visible in the rate of recycling and composting, which has risen from a level of 6% of household waste in the mid-90s to 17.7% in 2003/04, just exceeding the target set by national government. However, there is some way to go to meet the targets for recycling and composting under Waste Strategy 2000 of 25% by 2005, and at least 30% by 2010. The progress won to date is fragile, and there is uncertainty as to whether the achievements made so far can be maintained.
A range of issues and obstacles to increasing the sustainability of waste management have emerged through the research:
Institutional fragmentation: divisions between and within the institutions responsible for municipal waste and a lack of integration with other relevant policy sectors.
Instability and uncertainty: the turbulent institutional, legislative and financial context of waste management means that it is difficult to plan ahead or to experiment with new technologies and approaches.
Financial pressures and resources: the new agenda has placed significant strain on local authority budgets, long-term contracts and created pressure to win grants.
Political will and participation: successful engagement with the new agenda requires political will at all levels and increased and different means of engaging the public.
In seeking to promote a shift to more sustainable waste management policy, two factors are critical: an enabling policy framework and the ability to shift waste management of the waste hierarchy. In each of these themes, we have identified issues which we believe are particularly pertinent for the North East but which have wider implications.
Combinations of policy interventions have the potential to create positive and negative spirals for individual local authorities; once a local authority enters a negative spiral, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to improve the sustainability of their waste management.
The introduction of LATS may be leading to perversities in terms of sustainable waste management by favouring the development of incineration capacity which is often opposed locally. LATS is also potentially incompatible with the imposition of statutory targets, and carries a high level of financial and political risk for local authorities.
The challenges of meeting statutory targets is resulting in an overwhelming focus on the achievement of goals for recycling and composting, at the expense of considerations of the real sustainability of these options, or of engaging with the underlying principles of the waste hierarchy and its emphasis on reusing materials and reducing waste.
In the main, public involvement is seen in terms of public education, and our research suggests that this primarily takes the form of giving information to particular sections of the public (e.g. school children) in the hope that behavioural change will ensue.
There are some examples of alternative forms of education, which take a more discursive and deliberative approach (e.g. sustained links with schools, meet and greet schemes), and we suggest that these have more potential as means of changing views and behaviours in relation to waste.
Given the need for new facilities in the region, and the possibility of introducing more interventionist approaches to household waste management incentives or penalties robust strategies for engaging with communities in the development of waste policy will be required.
Divisions between sections of government responsible for dealing with different aspects of waste policy have been persistent, and links with those parts of government with indirect influence on waste practices has been minimal. This has reduced the scope for thinking imaginatively about addressing waste issues.
In the area of joint working between local authorities, the message from central government can appear to be at best ambiguous and at worst contradictory. Joint working between Waste Collection Authorities and Waste Disposal Authorities is increasingly mandated, but the pursuit of targets and the competitive allocation of funding restrict the capacity for working across local authority boundaries.