By Marcus Leach

Manufacturers and government are being urged to step up their efforts to tackle barriers to achieving zero waste targets, as requirements of a European Directive come into force placing new legal obligations on companies on their treatment of waste.

The Waste Framework Directive requires companies to consider a range of options known as the ‘waste hierarchy’ before disposing of their waste or sending to landfill only as a last option. Whilst many companies are already doing this as part of best practice and lean manufacturing, previously it has only been a voluntary commitment, whereas it is now a legal obligation.

Data show that between 2002 and 2009 the amount of waste produced by manufacturing fell by 23%, whilst the amount sent to landfill fell by 43%. However, despite this improvement industry still faces significant structural barriers to reducing waste such as a lack of access to Local Authority facilities, particularly for small and medium size companies.

Whilst DEFRA has made a first step in tackling barriers earlier in the year, with its Waste Review, EEF is urging it to make a step change to enable companies to deliver further improvements towards achieving zero waste.

“Waste has been a tough nut to crack and this new requirement should act as a wake up call for both manufacturers and government," EEF Head of Climate & Environment, Gareth Stace, said.

"Manufacturers have already taken significant action as they have long recognised that it makes good business sense to cut out waste from their operations.

"However, recovery and recycling have now reached a mature stage within company operations and industry can only make further progress if government unlocks barriers created by lack of investment in infrastructure. Now is the time for government to make a big leap forward and shake up this stagnant area of policy.

“In particular, £23bn of efficiency savings identified by government will largely be forgotten unless a clear understanding of why such a significant figure can still exists and the barriers that need to be removed for manufacturers to readily access these savings. We have also long said that the regulatory framework on waste can be confusing and the uncertainty of compliance can impede progress. Regulatory burdens need to be eased where possible and government needs to raise the profile of Waste as an issue. For example, awareness of the requirements that come in are low amongst manufacturers, yet government has done little to promote this.

“The requirements on waste in general are anticipated to increase, rather than reduce, with new measures being brought in through the environmental permitting regime. Often perceived barriers hinder progress, therefore better information on permit requirements can unlock potential solutions. Even fairly straightforward change, such as manufacturer’s access to Local Authority waste management facilities would significantly help SME to operate more efficiently by reducing waste going to landfill. The long awaited UK guidance on the definition of waste has yet to materialise, but could act as a catalyst for manufacturers seeking to get the best values out of limited resources.”

Join us on
Follow @freshbusiness