Having made the trip to London to attend a breakfast meeting with the Defra Minister on the day of the launch of the waste prevention programme, my disappointment began when we were only given a two page executive summary and a short explanation of what was in it. There did follow a session of pertinent and probing questions from attendees regarding aspects of the programme, but I’d suggest that most of us left the room feeling it was up to the waste industry, manufacturers, retailers, civil society organisations and other practitioners to sort it all out.
Having now read the full document, I welcome the acknowledgment our sector receives as being the pioneer of reuse and certain other waste prevention activities, and also the encouragement and recognition given to the social and economic impacts of our work. Also we welcome the initiative to bring together Local Authorities and the waste industry to develop reuse and prevention opportunities. My worries start when, once again, we do not find any policy targets to bring about a change in waste practices to support reuse. What I do find most concerning is the continued espousing that the reuse sector needs to up its game and jump some more hurdles – it’s time the waste and recycling sector came to us.
Yes, there are potential support mechanisms through some small funding pots allocated to communities and any future innovative waste prevention ideas, but it is our opinion that these have to be carefully managed and the risks to the reuse sector should be fully assessed. The funds are not that significant enough to make big improvements in waste prevention or reuse, but if used carelessly they could be detrimental to the sector and the market that already exists. Our sector has been centred around social purposes for 30 years and we see waste as the place where product should not be and as a resource to support consumers; we are not all driven by waste issues and if waste policy begins to change our sector’s position we will push back against this change. Our sector needs to save low income households £330million per year and provide a lot more economic benefit on top of that; so this cannot be hindered by light touch and explicit waste initiatives. It is implicit and understood by our sector and by those consumers who already donate and reuse product, that reuse matters for social and economic purposes not just waste avoidance.