WRAP launched to kick-start recycling markets

Targets to increase the recycling of certain household waste materials are likely to feature in the business plan of the new Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP). The organisation will also publish the lessons learned from companies with strong "buy recycled" policies.

Creating a body to devise a strategy for recycled materials markets was recommended to Environment Minister Michael Meacher by his Department's Market Development Group last year (ENDS Report 293, 17-18 ).

The commitment to establish WRAP, a private not for profit company, was announced in the waste strategy last spring. This summer, the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions secured £25 million over three years for the organisation, and further funding bringing the total to more than £30 million has been secured from the Department of Trade and Industry, Scottish Executive and Welsh Assembly.

WRAP will register as an environmental body able to accept voluntary contributions under the landfill tax credits scheme, and hopes to obtain further private sector money. A waste policy paper issued by the Environmental Industries Commission in November called for further public funding from the £1 per tonne annual increases in landfill tax.

The creation of high-value, stable and consistent markets for secondary materials such as glass, plastics and paper is widely regarded as crucial if local authorities are to meet the tough new recycling targets for household waste set by the Government (ENDS Report 309, pp 25-27 ). Much therefore rides on WRAP's success. Membership of WRAP, in which the Government will have a significant minority share, is open to any organisation which supports its goal to remove barriers to waste minimisation, reuse and recycling and to create new markets for recycled materials. The cost of membership has yet to be decided, but will influence the membership profile and therefore the nature of the work.

Speaking at WRAP's launch in November, chairman Vic Cocker said it was setting tonnage-based recycling targets for different waste streams. Funding would probably be channelled into a relatively few well-focused projects, he said. "We will start with the main waste streams, what should happen in the next three to five years, what the gaps are, technical or financial, and then work to bridge those gaps."

Although Mr Cocker said that other wastes, such as scrap tyres, would fall under WRAP's remit, the political drive is to help councils meet their recycling targets. This will mean concentrating on materials in the household waste stream which offer the potential for the biggest improvements - glass, plastics and paper. Working papers inviting comments on WRAP's proposed work programme, including the waste streams to be tackled, will be issued in December. The final business plan will be submitted for board approval in March.

A full board has yet to be appointed but the chief executive is Jennie Price, former head of the Construction Federation. The policy director is Ray Georgeson, executive director of environmental charity Wastewatch. He was seconded to the DETR earlier this year to help establish WRAP.

  • Material specifications: WRAP promises to work with reprocessors to identify the type of standards which will create confidence in recycled products; to establish standards where they do not exist; and to enhance existing standards where necessary.

  • Buy recycled in business: This will be a long-term project to alert product manufacturers to the range of potential uses for secondary materials. As a first step, WRAP will work with "exemplar companies" which already have strong policies to buy recycled, and disseminate the lessons to other users.

    WRAP will hope to have more success than the "Buy Recycled" campaign launched by Mr Meacher two years ago (ENDS Report 296, p 34 ). One founder member, carrier bag manufacturer Alida Recycling, has been forced to shut down, while most major retailers provide shoppers with cheap, thin bags made from virgin material (ENDS Report 306, p 12 ).

  • Promoting investment: The growth of recycling businesses is hindered by difficulties in obtaining venture capital, with investors demanding a higher rate of return for such projects. Reprocessors are also unable to hedge the risks of volatile price fluctuations in commodity markets, particularly for plastics and paper. WRAP will work with the financial sector to overcome these barriers.

  • Research and development: WRAP will seek to fill gaps in data on waste materials. Examples include the need for more standardised data on the composition of the waste stream, and authoritative information on best practice in collection.

    It will also be important to find new uses and applications for recycled materials, with glass an obvious example.

  • Advice and guidance: WRAP promises to be proactive, taking its services to "those who could make the biggest impact on the ground, whether or not they currently realise it." Much of its information will be posted on the web at www.wrap.org.uk

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