Defra announces new “waste reduction” policy programme


Circular Economy

The UK government has announced new plans to encourage the use of fewer resources and increase repair, reuse and recycling as part of its “goal” to achieve a circular economy approach.

Waste and Resources Minister Rebecca Pow announced the new programme on Friday (28 July). It came after a busy week for Defra (The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) following extended producer responsibility (EPR) being delayed until October 2025.

The new Maximising Resources, Minimising Waste programme includes a range of projects across seven sectors aimed at improving product design and the reuse of resources while creating jobs and growing the economy. Defra says its goal is for a “circular economy approach” which retains products and materials in circulation for as long as possible and at their highest value.

Textiles reuse
Defra has identified textiles as a “priority waste stream”.

The programme sets out the government’s intentions on waste prevention through designing out waste, systems and services, and data and information. The seven “key” sectors the government plans to focus on are construction, textiles, furniture, electronics, food, road vehicles and plastics/packaging.

As part of its plans to “design out waste”, Defra says it aims to drive change in product design so that products are made to be durable, repairable and recyclable – and can be remanufactured where appropriate. The government says it will do this through policies including ecodesign, consumer information and EPR schemes.

The plans include scrapping fees for households to have bulky domestic furniture collected from their homes by retailers by 2025. Defra also commits to developing policy options to “tackle” fast fashion through reuse and recycling, which includes consulting on collections of textile waste from businesses.

As part of the plans, Defra says it will also consult the public on changes to the waste electricals regulations, which the government says will ensure the vape industry pay and strengthen the take-back requirements for retailers and online sellers. The government also commits to launching proposals on reforming the batteries regulations 2023.

We mean business when it comes to preventing waste. 

The programme brings together a range of measures backed by government funding which Defra says will help to keep products and materials in circulation for as long as possible and at their highest value.

Commenting on the announcement, Environment Minister Rebecca Pow, said: “We mean business when it comes to preventing waste. We’re targeting the sectors responsible for the biggest impacts on the environment, and working with business to take the right steps for better use of our precious resources.”

The government pledged to publish the Maximising Resources, Minimising Waste programme in the Environmental Improvement Plan earlier this year.

Defra says its approach will be informed by analysis of resources and waste, which has identified textiles as a “priority waste stream” given the significant quantities of waste it produces and its impact on net zero goals.

The government says it remains committed to delivering on its commitments to eliminating avoidable waste by 2050 and recycling 65% of municipal waste by 2035.

Increasing repair and reuse is key to supporting the move towards more circular living

This is despite DS Smith forecasting the UK will miss its 2030 recycling rate target by 13 years and a recent government report ranking the successful delivery of Collection and Packaging reforms as “unachievable”.

Harriet Lamb, WRAP CEO, commented: “Nearly half of all greenhouse gases come from our own ‘consumption’ – what you and I do every day, how we shop and what we buy. Tackling these emissions from food to clothes, packaging to electronics and more is imperative if we’re to have any chance of limiting the crisis of our changing climate.

“Increasing repair and reuse is key to supporting the move towards more circular living which many people and community groups are embracing and WRAP welcomes more support for such initiatives.”

CIWM Reacts

Reacting to the announcement, Lee Marshall, Policy and External Affairs Director, CIWM, commented: “The aim to embed the principles of the circular economy by increasing reuse, tackling fast fashion and disposable vapes, and reforming the way we deal with batteries is laudable, but much is still subject to consultation.

“This is a welcome note of positivity after the announcement of the delays to other policy measures but, as always, the devil will be in the detail.”

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