COLOGNE, GERMANY--(Marketwire - Nov 29, 2012) - Brits want to know exactly who will be producing waste in the future and how much, where it should go and what to do about it. The report Scenario-Building for Future Waste Policy produced by Z_punkt The Foresight Company on behalf of Defra, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, provides some answers. The report has now been published, and describes, in four visions of the future and quantified scenarios, how the UK can react to the growing mountains of waste.
If one were to predict what the situation will be like by 2030 based on current trends, then, in around 20 years' time, the UK will be sitting on sixteen per cent more waste than today. What strategic decisions have to be taken in terms of waste policy to improve this trend? What negative trends should be avoided? With the aid of extensive comparison calculations on waste arising, the report shows what timely steps need to be taken, and, in doing so, summarises the results of a future-orientated process that brought together key experts on the subject. The results are meant to provide input for a review of UK waste policy and guidance for long-term waste policymaking. Scenarios help to reflect systematically on possible future challenges, and, as such, support long-term orientated policy measures. As Cornelia Daheim, Managing Director of Z_punkt, explained, "An interesting methodological novelty, here, is the integration of numbers and narratives. The scenarios tell stories in the form of consistent visions of the future conceived on the basis of a process involving experts, but are, at the same time, very specific due to the integrated quantitative analysis." Ms Daheim went on to stress that such an approach "meets the growing need on the part of decision-makers for key figures in scenario processes."
Let's take the good future first. We are looking ahead to 2030, and the UK has achieved a radical turnaround in terms of sustainability. Society, industry and policymakers are all pulling together. By 2030, total waste arisings in the Sustainability Turn scenario will only increase by six per cent to 208 megatonnes. Waste is a thing of the past. Products are recycled, reused, composted or exchanged instead of being purchased new. The Government has passed strict laws for the prevention of waste and to protect the environment. In this green future, even more waste could be avoided, but as homeowners are having their houses converted to make them more eco-friendly, an above-average amount of building rubble is accumulating.
And now we have the less desirable future. It's 2030 -- and waste is everywhere, but not on people's minds. Recycling rates are low, manufacturing processes are inefficient and consumers give little thought to what they are buying. The UK has a problem. In the Unlimited Wastefulness scenario, the country has still not managed, after twenty years, to react adequately to the huge increase in waste production. What led to this trend? There was a long period of stagnation after the economic crisis in 2011. To boost the economy, the Government relaxed waste regulations. This was a success, but increased levels of consumption from 2020 onwards have led to mountains of waste that are growing massively. Now, the lack of investment in new recycling technologies is taking its toll. Waste treatment capacities are more than exhausted. With an estimated 239 megatonnes of waste arisings, which is twenty-one per cent more than today, this scenario represents by far the worst vision of the future.
In the third scenario, dealing with waste has never been easier for consumers, as everything goes into one bin. In 2030, highly-developed processes ensure quick and clear disposal of waste. Everywhere, small, regional high-tech recycling facilities pre-sort the waste, and high quality materials are efficiently recycled. Industry has strict guidelines as to which and how many materials it may use in production. What led to this High-Tech Approach? From 2012 onwards, there has been increasing resistance by the public and businesses to multiple bin collection, where waste has to be pre-sorted by hand. Politicians react to the public pressure and set the course for large investments in recycling technologies. Skyrocketing energy and commodity prices from 2020 support this trend. Nevertheless, the estimated waste arisings also increase by sixteen percent (e.g. due to the lack of reorientation towards waste avoidance) -- as is also the case in the fourth scenario, the Reference Scenario, which assumes that current trends will continue in the future. Despite the increase in recycling rates and landfill taxes, everything is still very much the same. A rethink in terms of food waste does, however, have a positive impact, meaning that food rarely ends up being thrown away.
The report is underpinned by comprehensive numerical estimates of waste arisings, differentiated according to type and processing.
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