Waste prevention is a current policy priority for governments across Europe. It is thus timely that Professor David C Wilson has published a seminal paper, which he also presented at the ISWA Annual Congress last week, reviewing the international evidence base on business waste prevention, in order to underpin policy making.  DCW managed the original review on behalf of Defra, the English Environment Ministry, the work being undertaken by a consortium comprising Oakdene Hollins, Brook Lyndhurst and the Resource Recovery Forum.

The paper written by DCW and co-authors was presented at the International Solid Waste association (ISWA)’s Annual Congress in Florence on 18 September, and is published in an open-access special issue of the peer-reviewed journal Waste Management & Research. The papersummarises the scale and benefits of business waste prevention; categorises waste prevention initiatives into four approaches; presents a conceptual framework and uses that to analyse attitudes and behaviours; and providess selected examples to show the effectiveness of eight different types of policy intervention.

The original Defra project was published in February 2012. The results were presented for ease of use as 28 inter-linked modular reports. They can be accessed here (check on ‘search’ and enter ‘WR1403’ as the keyword). The results of the review were showcased at a Defra-WRAPworkshop on 29 February 2012, at which DCW chaired the morning evidence session.

Waste prevention is at the top of the waste hierarchy.  The revised EUrevised Waste Framework Directive requires Member States to introduce a national Waste Prevention Programme by December 2013. DCW has been advising Defra (the English Environment Ministry) on their waste and resources evidence programme, and in particular on the evidence relating to waste prevention, since 2004.

The definition of waste prevention used in this evidence review of business waste follows the Directive, including waste avoidance, waste reduction at source or in process and product reuse – recycling is outside the scope. The search for evidence was very broad, covering UK and international, academic and ‘grey’, electronic and printed, and English, French and German language sources dating back at least to 1995. Almost 1,000 relevant documents were identified, of which nearly 600 passed initial screening. 

The analysis followed the broad logic of waste prevention actions by business, starting from the basic drivers of legislation and competition. Central to any analysis of the evidence is a detailed examination of the attitudes and behaviours of business.  The other two fundamental perspectives used in sorting and assembling the evidence were the particular commercial or industrial sector and the types of intervention to encourage action. A key analytical tool was to characterise the actions that a business can take to prevent waste into a number of approaches.

DCW also managed a previous Defra project, published in October 2009, which reviewed the available evidence on household waste prevention and received an internal Defra award for ‘excellence in the communication of science/engineering to policy makers’. This formed the basis of a special issue of the peer reviewed journal Waste Management & Research, published in March 2010, for which DCW co-wrote the guest editorial and co-authored four papers based on the Defra work.