Resource Futures was commissioned by Defra to carry out a comprehensive review of municipal waste composition in the UK. The principal objectives of this study were to:
What’s in the national dustbin? How much of what could be recycled is being thrown away? What are the tonnages of different materials in the national municipal waste stream? These are critical questions for the resource sector. In past significant work has been done in this area. However the most robust, detailed and recent estimates of national municipal waste composition have been produced by Resource Futures, who have an unrivalled set of data on local authority waste composition. Defra wished to understand composition of municipal waste to inform policy and material flows across the UK.
We used the waste audits commissioned by local authorities throughout England to understand what materials are in the “national dustbin”. These estimates were combined with recycling tonnage data from WasteDataFlow. Following that, we produced desk based separate compositional profiles for each of the municipal waste streams. This covered residual and recycling streams for kerbside, HWRC, bring banks, street cleansing etc., bulky waste collections and local authority collected commercial waste. No previous study had produced separate compositional estimates for such wide range of municipal waste and recycling streams. We applied our in-house methodology to produce the profiles.
The study delivered the most robust national compositional estimates for England to date which effectively mapped out how much material there is from different streams. We worked with Defra to make sure that estimates were made publicly available for all to use.
This work produced the most reliable estimates to date for tonnages of different materials in the national waste stream which is crucial for strategic decision making for a wide range of practitioners at a national and local level. It has provided an invaluable base line for a wide range of research to inform the state of play and trends in municipal waste management. For example, the radical reductions in household food waste reported in WRAP’s Household Food and Drinks Waste study drew heavily on data from both the 2006/7 and 2010/11 estimates.