It is easy to think of waste as nothing more than the stuff that goes out in our binbags. In fact, as the waste guru Peter Jones explains, waste is generated, at enormous levels, right across the life cycle of our society. We are careless with resources and, as a result, our management of waste is failing to work as well as it could.
Getting people to recycle and compost is a vital way of making good that failure. Looking at innovative ways of using waste – for example, to produce energy – is another. But no real progress can be made without proper minimisation strategies, which means encouraging industry (coercing it, if necessary) to reduce waste along the supply chain.
This will reduce the amounts of rubbish being poured into our landfill sites. It will also give British firms a competitive advantage in the 21st-century, in a world where resources are going to be increasingly expensive and fought over.
But does our government have any real appetite for getting industry to shoulder its share of the burden? So far, the responsibility for waste reduction has been laid heavily on the shoulders of local authorities and consumers. The government does not even keep complete figures for commercial and industrial waste. It is just not good enough. The time has come for a truly radical change in the way we approach our rubbish.
25 January 2010
This supplement is part one of a series of Policy Reports published in 2010.
For a full list of articles, click here
Buy a friend or loved one a subscription to the New Statesman this Christmas, or treat yourself to weekly issues of high-quality and independent journalism.
Our Christmas subscriptions come with a complementary gift bundle worth £92. Browse our New Statesman subscription options here.