Headlines: June 25th, 2004

There is to be a step change in the way Government departments re-use or recycle their rubbish. In future obsolete office machinery and equipment, paper and cardboard, toner cartridges, copiers and printers, plastics and tin cans will all be disposed off – and bought in the first place – in a more sustainable fashion.Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett announced a series of targets that the departments will have to meet. She said England currently produced 375 million tonnes of waste each year with the figure for the United Kingdom as a whole being 420 million tonnes – enough rubbish to fill the Albert Hall in London every hour.

Mrs. Beckett said all Government departments would have to embrace the cultural shift away from landfill just like local councils and private individuals. The targets will mean the Government will try to buy more re-usable and recyclable products and products made from recycled-content materials. It is also aiming to return used products to manufacturers.

Departments will have progress measured on a number of fronts – implementing strategies for sustainable waste management, improving data collection on waste streams, reducing waste and increasing recycling and composting rates, using more sustainable methods to manage waste and setting waste clauses in estate management contracts. They will be expected to increase their recycling and composting by at least 5 per cent a year towards a target of 75 per cent overall. Each department will have to justify publicly its actions and the timescales it sets itself to deliver the targets.

Margaret Beckett said local authorities and householders were adapting to a new culture of recycle and re-use for much of their household rubbish. The transition away from landfill has been slower than the Government had anticipated but in recent years it had speeded up. Now it was time for Government to lead by example.