Embargo: 00:01 Wednesday 20 August 2008

Contact: Owen Williams 020 7219 8659


The House of Lords Science Committee have today called on the Government to extend its efforts on waste reduction from solely making demands of consumers, and to concentrate on reducing the high waste levels of companies.

The Committee's report, Waste Reduction, calls on the Government to restructure local authority waste targets which currently focus on decreasing the weight of domestic waste sent to landfill. The Committee call for a more 'holistic' approach to waste reduction by amending the costs and targets imposed on local authorities to allow them to address commercial and industrial waste by providing support and more efficient disposal facilities to business.

The Committee also recommend that the Government should take steps centrally to ensure as much as possible is being done to encourage businesses of all sizes to reduce waste. They assert that reducing waste levels will save business money and make British business more competitive internationally. They recommend that Government take the lead in introducing true individual producer responsibility, to encourage companies to take their own duty to reduce waste seriously. The Committee point out that leaders in waste reduction in industries such as electronic goods manufacture are calling for individual producer responsibility rather than industry wide collective producer responsibility, to ensure their own good practice is not undermined by companies who make less efforts to reduce waste associated with their products.

The report also calls on the Government to look at the VAT regime and to consider amending it to introduce variable VAT rates so products which use sustainable materials and less virgin raw resources, are made a more economically attractive proposition. They also suggest VAT rates for servicing and repairing existing products is looked at and possibly reduced. They say that such a change could lead to manufacturers adapting their business model to encourage more sustainable consumption amongst their customers. The Committee looked at the growth of 'fast fashion' and point out that the increased use of cheap fabrics for clothes intended to be worn for a short period of time and then thrown away makes recycling of fabric more difficult and is reflective of an increasing 'throwaway society'.

The Committee recognise that business needs to be helped to reduce waste levels and call on the Government to do more to provide direct tailored guidance to business. They state that this will be vital in making clear to business the financial benefits they can accrue by reducing waste. The Committee express extreme disappointment that funding is being reduced to some of the main environmental business support bodies such as Envirowise, the National Industrial Symbiosis Programme, the Waste and Resources Action Programme and the Market Transformation Programme - all will see significant cuts in Government funding in 2008/09 compared with 2007/08 with Envirowise having its funding more than halved. The Committee recommend that the Government should return to ring fencing a proportion of land fill tax revenue to fund waste reduction initiatives to provide a 'carrot' to business that justifies the 'stick' method of using tax to encourage waste reduction.

Government has an important role in leading by example in reducing waste. The Committee recommend that the Government take the lead by developing a strategy to reduce industrial and commercial waste rather than focus only on domestic waste which makes up a small proportion of all waste produced in the UK. Waste reduction, rather than just re-use and recycling must now be the priority for government and the Committee assert that unless the Government are clear that this is a long term priority it will be difficult to convince business to invest in more sustainable practices.

Commenting Lord O'Neill, who chaired the Lords Science Sub-Committee on Waste Reduction, said:

"There has been an impressive increase in recycling of domestic waste in the last few years but that only represents a tiny fraction of all waste generated in the UK. It is time for the Government to move its priorities from household waste to the far greater problem of industrial and commercial waste.

"The target regime for local authorities must be changed so instead of a focus only on individuals' waste, priority is given to ensuring businesses are doing their bit to reduce waste. An important step would be to introduce true individual producer responsibility for waste associated with a company's products so manufacturers who behave irresponsibly face financial consequences and those who are doing the right thing are supported.

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

"We were also very disappointed to hear that the budgets of many of the government agencies created to encourage more sustainable business practices are being cut. This sends out entirely the wrong message at a time when reducing commercial waste both for economic and environmental reasons is more important than ever."

Notes to Editors

1. The report Waste Reduction is available from The Stationery Office, House of Lords Science and Technology Committee, 6th Report of 2007/08, HL Paper 163.

2. The report will be available online shortly after publication at:

3. The members of the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee Sub-Committee on Waste reduction are:

Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan (Chairman)

Lord Bhattacharyya

Lord Crickhowell

Lord Haskel

Lord Howie of Troon

Lord Lewis of Newnham

Lord May of Oxford

Lord Methuen

Baroness Platt of Writtle

Earl of Selborne

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

Lord Sutherland of Houndwood

For copies of the report or to request an interview with Lord O'Neill, please contact Owen Williams, Head of Press and Media, House of Lords on 020 7219 8659.