ISB Global CEO calls for action from new government to address UKs waste problem

   Matt Farnworth


ISB Global CEO and Founder Chris Williams said, “It’s perhaps understandable that the UK’s waste problem wasn’t more of a talking point during the General Election campaign. The incoming Labour government faces a range of problems – the cost of living crisis: a challenging economy: the NHS in grave difficulty: chronically underfunded public services: polluted rivers and waterways: and of course the global climate crisis.”

Williams continued, “The new government also needs to get a grip on the country’s waste problem. According to Greenpeace UK’s “Big Plastic Count” plastic waste survey earlier this year, UK households throw away an estimated 1.7 billion pieces of plastic per week – that’s 60 pieces per household: and the equivalent of 90 billion pieces per year. What’s worse is that over half (58 percent) is incinerated, up from 46 percent in 2022, while 14 percent is exported overseas and 11 percent goes to landfill. Just 17 percent is currently recycled in the UK. These numbers don’t bode well for the health of the country and the planet.”

He went on, “Labour in its manifesto was clear in its commitment to cutting emissions by reducing the UK’s use of fossil fuels and increasing its use of renewables. But we cannot say the same when it comes to reducing the amount of waste the UK currently sends to landfill. We need to bear in mind that landfill sites are a source of greenhouse gas emissions such as methane, which is 80x more harmful than CO2 and traps more heat in the atmosphere than CO2.  

“Landfills also represent a public health hazard: active and disused landfills across the country have been found to leak toxic chemicals into the ground and the water table, which damage the local environment and cause health problems for people and animals living nearby.”

Labour’s manifesto included a commitment to “reducing waste by moving to a circular economy” but did not go into further detail. Williams now wants to hear how the new government intends to tackle the UK’s waste problem, including plastic pollution. 

“Initiatives like deposit return schemes can change consumer behaviour and significantly improve recycling rates and reduce litter,” said Williams. “Deposit-based recycling schemes have been operating effectively in European countries for more than 20 years. In some cases, these schemes have achieved recycling rates of 90 percent or more.

“The delay earlier this year until 2027 of the planned deposit scheme in Scotland that was first proposed by the devolved Scottish government back in 2018 was a step backwards. There are multiple considerations to factor in with a deposit scheme: what materials to include in it, the cost of infrastructure and logistics to support it, and securing buy-in from producers and retailers. Putting a UK-wide scheme in place requires cooperation combined with genuine political will.” 

Williams continued, “The UK is still playing catch-up with countries in Europe and elsewhere in its approach to waste management. To close the gap, national and local government authorities here should plan and fund localised return services that enable smaller, shorter recycling loops for collecting reusable packaging for reuse. Making recycling straightforward and convenient makes it easier to educate and encourage people to change their behaviours and dispose of their waste responsibly. 

“But recycling alone isn’t enough to solve the waste problem,” he added. “The new government must also put the planet first with policies that reduce waste overall – and be prepared to enforce them.

“Schemes like Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) mean producers and retailers must consider waste and the environment when designing their products plus the materials they are made from. By prioritising the safe disposal of items and the reuse of materials into new products, this kind of policy framework can be the foundation for new innovations and new business opportunities as part of a low-waste circular economy.

Williams concluded, “By making meaningful progress to reduce the UK’s waste footprint, the new government can conserve the environment and encourage new ideas. At the same time, people benefit from a healthier and more sustainable way of life.”

This is an ISB Global approved press release, 11/07/2024.
ISB Global logo