A zero waste UK
Waste is a big problem – a 300 million tonne problem in the UK alone. Not only do we have to dispose of it with the pollution problems this entails, but also because it represents an inefficient use of resources. In wealthy nations we have developed a linear economy where, for the most part, we extract, produce, consumer and discard resources. Few are genuinely recycled and most stay in the economy for less than six months.
As the notion of ‘one planet living’ has taken hold, it has become clear that we are going to have to start tackling waste properly. And this means tackling products: the way we design, make and use things. Products should be designed to last, to be reused, or to be recycled easily. Where possible we should change the focus from the ownership of a product to the provider of a service. Unfortunately many of our present economic drivers are towards greater consumption and cheap, disposable products.
Green Alliance has studied a number of cities, regions and countries that have adopted ‘zero waste’ goals, for example New Zealand, Canberra and San Francisco. Recycling rates of 70 per cent are being seen in these places – but even these pioneers are struggling with waste prevention, largely because public authorities have little control over what products are put onto the market.
In the UK, the debate on waste has, until very recently, been kept separate from the debate on products. The waste agenda has been focussed on least-cost compliance with EU directives, while the products agenda appears to have stalled. Both agendas urgently need new life. The government will be publishing its much-awaited waste strategy for England early in 2007. It presents an opportunity to set out a vision of a zero waste society. A Zero Waste UK sets out a package of policy measures that would move us towards that vision.
- Julie Hill, Ben Shaw, Hannah Hislop
- Publication Date:
- 19 November, 2006