By Max Clarke

The CBI is urging the Government to be bold in its approach to waste policy and recognise its potential to deliver easy wins on a number of big policy areas from meeting climate change targets and bolstering energy security to helping unlock infrastructure investment.

Launching a new report today, called Making Ends Meet: Maximising the value of waste, the UK’s leading business group highlights the benefits of moving to a zero-waste economy.

As well as meeting targets to cut the amount of rubbish sent to landfill and helping achieve climate change goals, an ambitious waste policy could provide growth opportunities for businesses by making it easier for more firms to sell their recyclable waste to other companies as a resource. It could also encourage councils to share waste and recycling facilities, creating savings.

Seemingly pre-empting the CBI's advice, London Mayor Boris Johnson announced last week the creation of a large scale low carbon waste recycling plant, the first of its kind in the UK, that will create some 25 high skilled jobs as well as generating in excess of 19 Megawatts of power.

It is hoped that the plant, to be erected in Dagenham at a cost of £10 billion, will act as a catalyst both for the further development of the area and for other such plants nationwide.

With 300 of the UK’s landfill sites due to close in the next decade, around 2000 new waste management facilities need to be built by 2020, at an estimated cost of £10bn. With the waste policy review imminent, the CBI is calling for a cross-department approach from the Government and changes to the planning regime to deliver the investment needed in waste management infrastructure.

Dr Neil Bentley, CBI Deputy Director-General, said:

“We risk missing a trick by not harnessing the huge potential of waste. Rather than being viewed in isolation, waste management should be seen as an important part of the green economy and our growth strategy.

“Ambitious waste policies will allow the Government to hit a broad range of its objectives from cutting emissions to bolstering energy security. We should also be encouraging councils to share recycling and waste facilities, while businesses could be incentivised to sell their recyclable waste.

“But moving to a zero-waste economy will require government departments working together and thinking outside the box. There also needs to be swift action to tackle delays in the planning system. On average it takes seven years for a waste management company to get a plant up and running, of which four are spent in the planning process. That is not the way to attract investment.”

Among the measures the CBI is calling for the Government to deliver are:

Cross-governmental cooperation from DEFRA, DECC, BIS, DCLG and HMT beyond the lifetime of the waste review, taking joint ownership of the delivery plan;

A full audit of current regulation to ensure they deliver the best environmental and economic results;

Planning certainty to attract investment. The Government must recognise the importance of waste management facilities to local communities in its planning reforms;

Increased adoption of energy from waste technologies to reduce our carbon use and deliver energy security;

Improved data on commercial and industrial waste to improve policy implementation;

An incentivised approach to waste recycling that benefits small and medium-sized companies;

And an integrated local policy to help different councils deliver zero waste.