Science Committee Criticises Government for Encouraging ‘Throw Away’ Culture

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee yesterday published a report criticising the Government for doing too little to encourage recycling amongst businesses. The Committee encourage the Government to amend waste targets, shifting the focus from reducing the weight of domestic waste sent to landfill to addressing commercial and industrial waste. Producers must be encouraged to take responsibility for the amount of waste generated by their products, with financial penalties to encourage greater efforts amongst businesses to reduce this.

The report also calls on the Government to introduce variable VAT rates, reducing VAT on projects which use sustainable raw materials. The Committee also suggest the Government examine the VAT levied on repairs to products, encouraging consumers to repair electronic goods, for example, rather than throwing them away when broken. Electronic goods can often cost as much to repair as the same product would cost to buy anew.

The Committee expressed disappointment that the Government is cutting funding to waste-reduction programmes, such as the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), in 2008/09. Lord O’Neill, Chair of the Sub-Committee on Waste Reduction said: “This sends out entirely the wrong message at a time when reducing commercial waste both for economic and environmental reasons is more important than ever.”

The Committee are clear in their recommendation that Government focus must be on waste reduction, as well as re-use and recycling, to provide a long-term framework in which businesses are incentivised to improve the sustainability of their own practices.

Read full report: Waste Reduction (20 August 2008)