Businesses can apply for loans of between £100,000 and £1m to develop new projects that prevent waste or use less in their service delivery.
Although the waste industry is enthusiastic about the prospect of treating waste as a valuable resource, the message is proving hard to get across to the wider business community. A new fund has been launched as part of an attempt to wake up businesses and organisations to the opportunities to turn waste into a resource.
Speaking at last week's CIWM conference Defra's senior waste official, Dr Colin Church, admitted that "it is proving very difficult to talk to stakeholders about waste prevention. Waste prevention goes well beyond the waste hierarchy, it goes outside the waste industry where very few people think about it, which I find quite surprising."
Waste Prevention Loan Fund
The aim of the new Waste Prevention Loan Fund is to help businesses set up new business models, which their traditional sources of finance might not see as commercially attractive, such as changing from product sales to delivering a service (e.g. leasing), or creating incentives for customers to return products for re-manufacture, re-use or recycling.
The offer was announced by waste minister Lord Taylor of Holbeach at the conference. He said: "The natural materials which our businesses rely on will become scarcer, so we need to develop new ways of designing, manufacturing and consuming goods so that we make the most of everything we use, rather than throwing it away at the end".
In addition to the loan fund, WRAP is offering to help identify new finance partners who are better placed to understand and finance such opportunities.
Any material stream is eligible for application to the fund, but in some cases grants are also available: for businesses interested in re-use and repair of textiles, electricals and furniture specifically, there are grants of up to £50,000 for equipment, and development support for marketing and financial planning.
SMEs throw away £470m
There is a huge opportunity in waste prevention on tax avoidance alone. In 2012, UK SMEs are forecast to lose £470m by sending waste to landfill when they could be saving millions by recycling and becoming more sustainable.
The average SME will spend £335 this year because of the landfill tax, and £358 in 2013, unless they take action, because the landfill tax rate is rising from £64 to £72 per tonne, according to research carried out on behalf of Veolia Environmental Services, published earlier this month.
At the CIWM conference, industry and commentators agreed that we don't yet have the right incentives in place to stimulate business interest in the circular economy.
As David Palmer-Jones, CEO of waste management company SITA UK, said, unless we start to think of the value in the raw material at the beginning of the production chain, we won't be able to treat it as a proper resource rather than as waste.
Resource Efficiency Platform
Further help is available. Earlier this month a new European Resource Efficiency Platform (EREP) was launched, designed to help organisations and governments along the European Commission's Roadmap to a Resource-Efficient Europe, which aims to decouple resource use and economic growth.
It includes an online component, the Online Resource Efficiency Platform (OREP), which will allow stakeholders to access information on resource efficiency and share their views on opportunities and challenges to achieve sustainable growth, with an interactive library, targets and indicators.
Defra is doing what it can. But Dr Church told the CIWM conference that the government department still has much work to do on how to promote resource efficiency and move the UK economy towards a 'closed loop' system. He promised that a voluntary agreement with the hospitality sector will be published later this month on reducing food and packaging waste.
Dr Church said that European law required the UK by December 2013 to provide a waste prevention programme. "My minister is personally extremely interested," he said.
Defra continues to be behind schedule with its work programme, having just missed a deadline for providing evidence to a Judicial Review over commingled collections in England and Wales brought by members of the Campaign for Real Recycling, who claim that the Waste (England and Wales) 2011 Regulations do not accurately transpose the requirement for ‘separate' collections of recycling required under the EU Waste Framework Directive. The hearing was scheduled for 14 December last year but Defra asked for six months while it thought about amending the regulations. This expired last week without conclusive action.
Zero Waste Scotland
Zero Waste Scotland is taking the resource efficiency agenda forward north of the border, where the new Waste (Scotland) Regulations require separated waste collection. WRAP is providing £70m of funding to Zero Waste Scotland this year to plan the investment opportunities.
The Scottish government's said that businesses were responding to zero waste. "The most interesting thing in the world of resources is in the business world. This is about the whole supply chain," said Scotland's head of waste management, Stuart Greig.