The UK government has announced a fundamental review of ‘all existing waste policies’. It came in a speech by environment secretary Caroline Spelman at the Futuresource waste and sustainability conference and exhibition in London's Docklands last week.
Whilst progress in the UK has been significant in recent years (the amount of waste sent to landfill has gone down by over a third since 2001, households now recycle over 38% of their waste compared to only 9% ten years ago and recycling from green waste has gone up 13% in the last decade) the government believes the UK needs to go faster and further.
The review, which is expected to produce preliminary findings by next Spring, will look at every aspect of waste policy and waste management delivery in England (Wales and Scotland have their own policies), including household and business waste and recycling services. The ultimate objective is to establish a zero waste economy.
Such a fundamental review is likely to throw up new compliance requirements and other waste/recycling management issues that will have a significant impact on ICT offerings in the market as well as representing a new opportunity for suppliers.
As it happens I was at the Futuresource exhibition later in the week to have a look at what green ICT is contributing to an evolving waste/recycling sector. In amongst the huge waste compactors and stylish recycle bins were a number of software companies whose aim in life is to make the whole recycle/disposal process as efficient as possible.
Companies exhibiting included:
• Whitespace describes itself as the market leader in the supply of environmental services software solutions to UK local authorities and their contractors. The product portfolio covers waste collection and disposal, environmental services, contract management and full PFI management.
• German company IVU Traffic Technologies supplies systems for running transport and logistics with a solution specifically aimed at the waste management sector.
• Isys Interactive Systems claims to be a market leader in the supply of waste and recycling solutions, with a range of applications that can run independently or as a suite of software.
• And CMS Supatrak keeps track of the vehicles and helps instil better driving habits.
Particularly interesting is The Environment Exchange, which provides a platform for trading in Packaging Recovery Notes (PRNs) and Waste Equipment Evidence and Trade Notes (WENs). It’s a company that only exists because UK legislation has generated the requirement.
WENs are the evidence that recovery and recycling has been achieved under the Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE) Regulations.
PRNs have a similar role in the Packaging and Packaging Waste legislation 2007. Companies are obliged to recover and recycle packaging to meet national targets if they have a turnover of £2m or more and handle 50 tonnes or more of packaging a year. Since most companies can’t meet their obligation through their own recycling efforts, the PRN system enables them to pay for the recovery and recycling of an equivalent amount of packaging and so offset their obligation. However, the PRN scheme is already under review.
Actually, in her speech at Futuresource Caroline Spelman specifically referred to the packaging issue; “And I want business and manufacturers to redouble their efforts to drive down the waste generated by production and the amount of packaging they use – some of which is, if we’re honest, actually marketing material”. No, really?