Plastics – diabolic or fantastic?

In his October column for the CIWM Journal, Professor David C Wilson reflects on the dominant story of his CIWM Presidential year, how we respond to the crisis of plastics entering our oceans. Which plastic uses are diabolic and should be banned, and which do we really need? One of his starting points was a recent CIWM-sponsored report which proposed a five-fold use-based categorisation of plastics. The other was the July Klosters Forum, which gathered 60 stakeholders from around the World to brainstorm on how to stem the flow of plastics into the oceans.

DCW proposes a three-way classification. At one extreme are the unacceptable, pointless, and often very short term (or ‘diabolic’) uses, which should be banned. At the other extreme are necessary or sustainable (‘fantastic’) uses, such as infection control, light-weighting cars and aircraft, and reducing food waste. In between is the largest category, which he labels as ‘indeterminate’. This can be further broken down into problem plastics, and replaceable plastics, which should both be phased out; and hard to replace plastics, where the focus should be on redesign and consolidation into a smaller number of truly ‘easy to recycle’ plastics used for ‘higher environmental value’ applications, such as preventing food waste.

Charge! – Paying for household waste services

CIWM President and lifelong waste policy and planning consultant David C Wilson reflects in his September column for the CIWM Journal on the challenges of devising the right policies to charge households for solid waste management services. Of course, we already pay for our solid waste services, but that charge is usually hidden within a wider charge or tax, which in the UK is council tax. Across Europe, many local authorities have been experimenting over the last 20 years with pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) systems, where the charge varies at least in part according to usage. The growing evidence base suggests that PAYT does work, in terms of reducing waste quantities and increasing recycling. But why should local authorities, and ultimately households, pay for all the costs of municipal solid waste management? Particularly in the context of Defra’s forthcoming Resources and Waste Strategy for England, DCW argues for real Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), with teeth, that will move the full financial burden of collecting, recycling and disposing of packaging and other products in the municipal waste stream from local authorities to the producers and supply chain. If we cannot have PAYT, let us at least have PAYB (pay-as-you-buy).

Hazardous Waste – Plus ça Change

CIWM President, and Chair of CIWM’s Hazardous Waste Special Interest Group (SIG), David C Wilson reflects in his August CIWM column on the challenges facing hazardous waste management in the UK and Ireland – past, present and future. His review with the SIG of current challenges suggests that not much has changed over the 44 years of his involvement with the hazardous waste sector. In particular, the UK continues to lack the ‘regulatory certainty’ which is necessary to secure the investment required in hazardous waste management infrastructure if such investment is left entirely to ‘the market’. And looking at the island of Ireland in particular, the uncertainties around Brexit do not help.


Wales and England publish national Waste Prevention Programmes

Wales and England have published their national Waste Prevention Programmes. Both see waste prevention and resource efficiency as an opportunity to promote growth while protecting the environment and moving towards a more sustainable and circular economy. Prof David C Wilson contributed to the evidence base that has underpinned both programmes, and also chaired the stakeholder Steering Group convened by the Welsh Government to review the evidence base and advise on finalisation of the consultation document published earlier this year.

All EU Member States are required under the revised Waste Framework Directive to prepare a national Waste Prevention Programme. The deadline for publication was set at 12 December 2013 – England’s ‘Prevention is better than cure – The role of waste prevention in moving to a more resource efficient economy’ was published on 11.12.13, Wales’s ‘Towards Zero Waste – One Wales: One Planet – The Waste prevention Programme for Wales’’ on 03.12.13 and Scotland’s ‘Zero Waste – Safeguarding Scotland’s Resources: Blueprint for a More Resource Efficient and Circular Economy’ on 02.10.13.

All three published programmes focus on the actions that householders and businesses can take to reduce waste, while at the same time saving money; and also on the actions that Government will take to facilitate the process. A key difference is that both Wales and Scotland have set targets for waste prevention, while England has not. CIWM have welcomed the English Strategy as a useful first step, but compared it negatively to both Wales and Scotland ‘who have taken a more proactive and ambitious approach’.
DCW advised Defra (the English Environment Ministry) on their waste and resources evidence programme, and in particular on the evidence relating to waste prevention, from 2004 to March 2013. He managed for Defra three of the four main evidence reports cited to underpin their published programme. He advised on a portfolio of some 12 research projects on household waste prevention undertaken between 2005-2008; managed a major international Household Waste Prevention Evidence Review (HWPER),published by Defra in October 2009 and in the peer-reviewed literature in March 2010; managed a similar international Business Waste Prevention Evidence Review (BWPER), published by Defra in February 2012 and as an open access paper in the peer-reviewed literature in September 2012; and managed ‘Waste Prevention Actions for Priority Wastes: Economic Assessment through Marginal Abatement Cost Curves’ (the MACC report), completed in December 2012.

Professor David C Wilson’s papers at major international waste conference

DCW was co-author of four papers at this week’s 20th anniversary Sardinia 2007, the Eleventh International Waste Management and Landfill Symposium. Three of the paper’s are a result of DCW’s research at Imperial College.

  1. DCW was lead author of a paper on Building recycling rates through the informal sector in developing countries.
  2. One of DCW’s former students, Nina Zetsche, presented on The clean development mechanism: incentive improving solid waste management in developing countries?
  3. Another former student, Costas Velis, presented on Early 19thcentury London dust-yards: a case study in closed loop resource efficiency.
  4. Molly Morgan presented a Defra paper on Science policy for sustainable waste and resources management: putting principles into practice.