Creating wealth from waste
by Robin Murray
DEMOS and Ecologika, 1999, 171 pp.
[This book is about 'alternative modernizations' for waste management in
the United Kingdom - incineration or intensive recycling/zero waste. Available
in North America from GRRN.
Elsewhere email email@example.com]
Excerpt from Chapter 14:
A programme for zero waste
- The economic playing field must be rebalanced. The hierarchy of profitability
must match the environmental hierarchy. This can be done by revising
waste taxes and public benefits in three ways:
- introducing a disposal tax that reflects the environmental hierarchy
- cutting the subsidies presently given to incineration
- introducing a price guarantee scheme for recycled materials to
fund the build-up costs of four stream recycling.
- The £550 million raised in waste taxes must be re-channelled to a
Zero Waste Fund. This requires:
- a change in the landfill tax regulations so that the 20 per cent
offsets are paid into the publicly-run recycling fund
- earmarking a further 20 per cent to support employment and environmental
goals through recycling
- amending the packaging recovery regulations so that payments
by the 'obligated parties' are channelled to recycling collectors.
- Establishing a Zero Waste Agency to administer the transitional
funds and 'animate' the change.
- Founding a new type of Green Academy, equivalent to the German
technical schools of the mid-nineteenth century. It would be charged
with developing organisational forms, knowledge and skills relevant
to zero waste, and new ways of generating 'distributed intelligence'.
Its curricula and priorities would be set by the needs thrown up by
the new environmental systems. Hence its research, teaching and skill
formation would be linked closely to ground level projects - following
the approach of the Ulm School of Design - and provide learning resources
to those in or outside employment.
- Appointing Zero Waste Advisers - some recruited from leading
recycling and reduction projects overseas - to advise on recycling schemes
and projects. The group would be part of an international network, promoting
exchanges and part-time attachments, and linking into practitioners'
- The launch of a 'Closed Loop Industrialisation' Initiative,
promoting the development of secondary materials industries, ecodesign
and hazard reduction technologies. In addition to material productivity,
it would aim to promote 'de-scaling' technologies suitable for local
and regional economies. It would be organised in conjunction with regional
- The extension of producer responsibility into new fields,
not only electrical and electronics appliances, end-of-life vehicles
and tyres, but other durable equipment, newspapers, and hazardous products
and materials. The weight of responsibility should be placed at the
point of product and process design, since they have the greatest capacity
to develop alternatives. In each case, the finance contributed by producers
should be re-channelled to develop the alternatives.
- Devolving responsibility for waste disposal to districts,
through direct payments for the costs of disposal (rather than property-based
precepts) and giving districts responsibility for identifying and negotiating
disposal options within their own boundaries or with neighbouring districts.
This would represent the proximity principle with teeth.
- Restoring public confidence in wade management and democratising
risk through: planning reform to give financial support and access
to information to civil groups and neighbourhoods affected by waste
proposals; a new culture of openness in regulatory bodies; an independent
waste hazards control advisory body; and an environmental freedom of
- A govemment-led commitment to the zero waste target 'within a
generation', reflected in the above measures and the adoption of
tighter targets to 'reduce with the aim of eliminating' mixed waste
disposal by 2010. This would include a phased ban on organic waste in
landfills and on landfilling or incinerating hazard-producing materials,
and a moratorium of new mixed waste incinerators for five years.