Wasted Goods Worth Over £400m, Warns LGA

27-03-14(4)picEven in these times of austerity, households are binning far too many perfectly serviceable goods worth over £400m every year, new research reveals, according to the LGA.

The re-usable items sent into landfill, from armchairs to kettles and televisions, weigh as much as 90,000 elephants.

The Local Government Association (LGA) is calling on the nation to join in a new re-use drive that can save taxpayers millions, help support local causes, and prevent unnecessary use of the country’s landfill sites by finding new homes for unwanted but functional items.

The report of the LGA’s Re-use Commission, released today (27 March), shows:

  • almost 615,000 tonnes of material is currently disposed of in England, even though it has the potential to be reused each year.
  • this could equate to a £60m saving to council tax payers, worth £3 a household, through diverting waste from landfill
  • the sale of textiles that could be reused would be worth up to £143m and resale of reusable Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) could have a value of up to £231m per year.
  • in total there could be up to £435m of value through reuse available each year to local authorities and their reuse partners
  • re-use can also bring significant social value and can support local causes, charitable organisations, training and job creation.

While consumers will have different reasons for throwing items away, some goods, particularly electrical, can be difficult or costly to repair or can be seen as older models. The LGA would like to see manufacturers make it easier or cheaper for items to be repaired.

Clyde Loakes, LGA – “Government, councils, the waste industry and voluntary groups need to work together with consumers to highlight the potential of re-use. We want to see a vibrant reuse culture which provides jobs, training and value to our society and economy and which puts money in taxpayers’ pockets”

The report highlights a range of methods and best practice in re-use including eBay, Freecycle, local projects, charities and social enterprises as well as informal arrangements between residents.

Launching the “Routes To Re-Use” report, Cllr Mike Jones, chair of the LGA’s environment and housing board, said: “Every year, a mountain of televisions, kettles, furniture and other items are thrown away, even though they are not broken and could be re-used. We’re calling for councils and consumers to join together to find new homes for these goods, which will not only save taxpayers money, but reduce the amount of waste unnecessarily sent to landfill.

“We know lots of consumers already find new homes for their unwanted items, which saves taxpayers from paying for collection and treatment. But there are opportunities for far more re-use of a range of goods, and we want consumers to get involved and play a bigger part in this.

“Landfilling is expensive and the cost of disposing of unwanted but reusable items is £90m, money which could be saved from our council tax bills.”

Chris Murphy, CIWM – “The report acknowledges that local authorities have a central role to play in stimulating re-use and emphasises the need for partnership working with the third sector… it also makes some very clear recommendations calling for more support at a national level…”

Councillor Clyde Loakes, chair of the LGA’s Re-use Commission, said: “Government, councils, the waste industry and voluntary groups need to work together with consumers to highlight the potential of reuse. We want to see a vibrant re-use culture which provides jobs, training and value to our society and economy and which puts money in taxpayers’ pockets.

“Our recommendations look at ways to make reusing products easy and accessible and proposals to give consumers the confidence to buy reused goods. This will help raise the profile of reuse, and enable residents to think about ways that they could find new homes for household goods.

“We also want to see a thriving market for reuse goods. To do this we need to make it viable for new reuse businesses to enter the market by offering tax breaks and designing opportunities to reuse goods at the earliest opportunity.”

CIWM Says

CIWM has welcomed the publication, saying: “This has been a somewhat neglected area of waste policy and CIWM welcomes the work that the LGA and its Re-use Commission have been doing,” says CIWM deputy chief executive Chris Murphy.

“The report acknowledges that local authorities have a central role to play in stimulating re-use and emphasises the need for partnership working with the third sector. However it also makes some very clear recommendations calling for more support at a national level through more communication and awareness raising and encouraging the private sector to work with councils to increase the opportunities for re-use.

“The report also highlights the very important role that standards and procurement can play in stimulating the market for good quality reused items. We support the report in addressing issues towards the top of the waste hierarchy and in particular the employment of social benefit potential which can result from effective partnerships between public, private and third sector organisations.”

Full report and research documents below:

Routes to reuse: maximising value from reused materials (PDF, 28 pages, 2MB large file)

Local Government Association Reuse Survey (PDF, 5 pages, 274KB)

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