Page last updated at 23:00 GMT, Tuesday, 19 August 2008 00:00 UK

Call to tackle UK business waste

By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website

Giant paper dart with label 'Envirowise'
The report criticises government plans to cut funding for advisory agencies

The government needs to step up efforts to reduce waste from business, according to a parliamentary committee.

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee recommends using variable VAT rates to cut unsustainable consumption of raw materials.

Its report says pressure has so far concentrated on householders, who account for only 9% of the UK's waste.

Environment minister Joan Ruddock said the government does have measures that are inducing businesses to cut waste.

Those measures include the landfill tax escalator under which the tax on landfill will rise by £8 per tonne each year until 2011.

FROM THE TODAY PROGRAMME

The committee acknowledged that this had been effective in reducing the amount of waste dumped in landfill sites, but said other initiatives were needed.

"We would like to see the VAT regime reformed so that products that have a long life-cycle, or can be easily and cheaply repaired rather than replaced, are made economically more attractive," said Lord O'Neill, who chaired the sub-committee on waste.

"This would be an important step in turning away from the 'throwaway' consumer culture we currently have."

'Disappointing' cuts

About one-third of the UK's waste is produced by construction and demolition, and a further third by mining and quarrying.

Nevertheless, the committee says, government action and media attention have concentrated on the much smaller contribution from households.

Councils too should change focus, it recommends, to prioritise reducing waste from businesses.

Plastic waste dump

Some business leaders interviewed by the committee said each company should be made responsible for the waste associated with its own products, a recommendation that the committee endorsed.

Lord O'Neill said this would ensure that "manufacturers who behave irresponsibly face financial consequences and those who are doing the right thing are supported."

Another recommendation is that the government should ring-fence a proportion of revenue raised from the landfill tax for agencies charged with reducing business waste.

Envirowise and the Waste and the Resources Action Programme (Wrap) are among the agencies whose budgets are being cut - a move about which the committee expresses "extreme disappointment".

The committee also refers to an issue often expressed by environmentalists - that the advice that people receive in the UK focuses too much on recycling, and not enough on reducing consumption.

The argument is that policies should aim first at reducing what people use, then encourage re-use, and only then stimulate recycling.

"If our society was to implement the hierarchy effectively, a far smaller amount of waste would need to be disposed of after all the previous stages had been put into practice," the committee concludes.

Richard.Black-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk




SEE ALSO
Plan aims for zero waste society
11 Mar 08 |  Tayside and Central
Stop wasting food, Brown urging
07 Jul 08 |  UK Politics
Landfill tax set to rise
27 Nov 02 |  Politics

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific