Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Fifth Report



MEMORANDUM BY THE WASTE AND RESOURCES ACTION PROGRAMME (DSW 121)

BACKGROUND

  The purpose of this memorandum is to supplement the oral evidence given by WRAP's Chairman, Vic Cocker, and its advisor, David Dougherty on 12 December, and to outline the work WRAP will undertake in the next few months.

  As the Sub-committee is aware, WRAP was not in existence at the beginning of this enquiry, and so was unable to submit written evidence before the hearings began.

  At the hearing, a number of members raised particular issues WRAP needed to address, such as the additional support needed by local authorities. WRAP will follow up these points, but would welcome any further points members may wish to raise as these could then be taken into account in the preparation of the business plan.

CURRENT STATUS

  WRAP is an embryonic organisation.

  As yet, it has no permanent full time staff: its Chief Executive, Jennie Price, and its Policy Director, Ray Georgeson both take up their posts on 1 January 2001, and the remainder of the senior staff team is currently being recruited.

  The preparatory work done to date includes:

    —  establishing WRAP as a private sector company

    —  putting in place a Chairman and a skeleton Board

    —  consultation with a wide range of stakeholders on WRAP's priorities

    —  agreeing a method for the production of a detailed business plan.

  This work has been carried out by consultants working on a part-time basis, assisted by a small team in DETR's in the waste strategy division.

WHERE WRAP CAN DELIVER

  WRAP has two distinct advantages in helping to achieve delivery of the Government's targets in the Waste Strategy:

    —  it has national coverage; and

    —  as a private sector body, it can respond to the business agenda and take a more commercial approach, whilst adhering to the high ethical standards of the public sector.

BUSINESS PLAN

  WRAP does not yet have a detailed business plan. The document seen by the Sub-Committee simply sets out the approach WRAP is taking to prepare it, and explains how people can participate. WRAP has, however, identified some early priorities, which are described below.

  The function and scope of WRAP's work is clearly set out in the Waste Strategy, and it was on this basis that some £30m of Government funding has been allocated to WRAP.

  A short, but intensive phase of work is now underway to determine exactly what projects WRAP should undertake to deliver its key objective of stable and healthy markets for recycled materials and products.

PROCESS

  WRAP will issue a series of working papers, based in part on the seminars and discussions which have already been held, describing the work it will undertake, and inviting concise views on specific issues.

  In February 2001 a series of workshops will be held with small groups of specialists in WRAP's anticipated areas of activity.

  In February 2001 WRAP will issue a draft business plan for consideration and comment.

  In March 2001 a final version of the business plan will be submitted to the WRAP Board for approval.

  The working papers will address such issues as the waste streams to be tackled, the barriers to greater re-use and recycling of those materials, and the action items for WRAP.

  Prioritisation will be particularly important if WRAP is to bring about real change, as the issues are complex and are unlikely to be satisfactorily addressed by a large number of small, uncoordinated projects. Prioritisation will be a key issue on which the views of stakeholders will be sought.

  The working papers will be sent to all of those people and organisations who participate in the seminars and discussions which have already taken place, including key players from the waste management industry, manufacturing and retail, local government and the community sector. We will also seek to engage with a wide range of potential users of recycled materials, and with those who set standards and prepare specifications for products and materials. We will also ensure that the consultation process genuinely reflects the different priorities of those in England, Scotland and Wales.

  Key contributors to this process will be invited to the workshops in January, and there will be a further opportunity to comment on the draft business plan which will be issued in February. A wide range of organisations has already expressed interest in and a willingness to contribute to WRAP's work.

  The purpose of this period of preparation and consultation is:

    —  To ensure that WRAP knows where it is going and has plotted a clear route to get there before it embarks on its main three year programme

    —  To balance the allocation of funds between competing priorities and sectors

    —  To give all of its major stakeholders an opportunity to scrutinise and comment on its plans

    —  To ensure that the proper administrative structure and procedures are in place before it commits to any major expenditure.

SHORT TERM PROJECTS

  While it is developing its business plan, WRAP will also be initiating work on three projects. These have emerged from early discussions with stakeholders and experts in the field as being essential to the creation of stronger markets.

  They are: a product standards programme; a web-based information and advisory service on recycled materials; and a "buy recycled in business" programme. Further details are set out below.

1.  PRODUCT STANDARDS PROGRAMME

  One of WRAP's main objectives is to increase the demand for recycled materials and products.

  A major barrier which has already been identified is the lack of confidence among potential buyers, and a perception that recycled materials and products are either intrinsically inferior or of lower quality that those made from virgin materials.

  WRAP will tackle this by instituting a Product Standards Programme to produce recognised and independently verified standards both for products made from recycled materials and, where necessary, for recyclates and compost products.

  WRAP will:

    —  Identify the material streams where lack of standards is a major barrier, such as plastics and organics.

    —  Undertake a pilot project in at least one of these areas, either to produce a standard, or to develop and support an existing standard (compost standards are a strong candidate for a pilot, and WRAP is already considering an application for support from the Composting Association).

    —  Work with those industry sectors already operating in this area, including the trade associations.

    —  Establish a relationship with BSI and CEN to ensure any standards developed by WRAP have the appropriate status and verification.

    —  Involve the current and potential users of the relevant materials in the development of the standards to ensure the materials and products which meet those standards will be commercially attractive.

    —  Publicise the existence of the standards to users and promote their widespread adoption.

2.  BUY RECYCLED IN BUSINESS PROGRAMME

  Another way in which WRAP can boost demand for recycled products is to encourage businesses to think creatively about how they might use recycled products and materials.

  This will be particularly effective if industry leaders are prepared to commit to a "buy recycled" policy, as this will create a critical mass of demand, and stimulate their supply chains (and their own staff) to seek out recycled products and materials and to work with reprocessors to find new applications for recyclates.

  WRAP is already talking to Business in the Environment, which carries out an annual survey of the environmental engagement in the FTSE top 100, about current levels of recycling. This survey attracts a high level of participation (over 70 per cent), which indicates business is actively concerned about its environmental performance and will be receptive to practical and realistic advice about sustainable resource use.

   WRAP will:

    —  Identify a limited number of companies (say five) in different sectors who are already leaders in sustainable resource use and recycling, and work with them to understand what they have done, what has worked and what hasn't, any cost savings they have made, and any quality and supply issues they have encountered.

    —  Convert that information into a simple and accessible form for dissemination to other companies in the relevant sector, perhaps supported by one to one advice and support for other companies who are prepared to commit to applying some of the lessons learned in their businesses.

    —  Develop a method of more general dissemination of this information, including to SMEs, eg through trade associations, a WRAP Helpline (perhaps shared with Envirowise) and the Small Business Service.

    —  Identify specific initiatives to support "Buy Recycled" policies such as facilitating collective purchasing of recycled content products (particularly if this would reduce prices to competitive levels) and supporting trials of recycled content products.

    —  Work with major Government purchasers, particularly through OGC, to pass on the lessons learned about successful "Buy Recycled" policies.

3.  INFORMATION AND ADVISORY SERVICE

  WRAP will collate the best practice information available on recycling and the use of recycled materials and products, and make it available to all interested parties via a helpline and a comprehensive, user friendly website. It will also investigate:

    —  Obtaining access to information collected abroad, including the comprehensive work done in this area by the Clean Washington Centre

    —  The practicality of a web-based trading system for recycled materials such as that which exists in the Netherlands for post consumer white goods and electronic equipment.

    —  The best way to link to other relevant websites and information sources so that users can find the exact information they need quickly and easily.

SUMMARY

  In summary, WRAP will:

    —  Develop a strategy for increasing recycling within each of the major waste streams

    —  Focus on a limited number of major activities to deliver early results, such as a product standards programme and the promotion of recycled products to industry

    —  Comment objectively on Government policy where, on the basis of its experience and expertise, WRAP believes changes are necessary to achieve longer-term goals.

December 2000.


 
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