‘Strong need’ for digital waste tracking service, says DEFRA

DEFRA has said initial feedback from the waste industry has shown support and a “strong need” for a nationwide digital waste tracking service.

The department is calling for more organisations and businesses producing or managing waste across the UK to help it test and develop the service.

DEFRA, along with the Environment Agency and their counterparts in the devolved UK nations, are designing a single digital service that will make it easy to track waste and resources in real time throughout the economy. 

The government says this will improve the quality and accuracy of waste data and make it more accessible and usable by businesses, regulators, and government.

The Environment Bill also contains a clause which would make such a system mandatory for waste managers. It is hoped this will help in the fight against waste crime.

As part of the project, which was launched in 2018, DEFRA has established a user panel which is made of volunteers including waste producers, operators, carriers and brokers, exporters and major trade bodies representing wider waste and environment interests.

These businesses and organisations have provided feedback through interviews, online surveys and usability testing as DEFRA developed prototypes.

When users sign up they provide basic information about their businesses such as the size, sector, and location, via an online form. DEFRA says this allows it to direct its user research activities to relevant users and draw on the right expertise.

It said early responses to user research “confirmed industry support, a strong need for the service, and, perhaps most importantly, a willingness to engage in future work. Response rates for our surveys have been good and the information gathered has been used to define what our users need from a waste tracking service and to understand more about the issues they currently face”. 

In April this year, after ENDS revealed an EA investigation into the illegal dumping of waste in Poland by British firms had collapsed, the waste industry called for the introduction of a waste tracking service. 

The Environmental Services Association (ESA) said that, alongside reforms to the carriers, brokers and dealers regime, this was necessary “to close the loopholes that make this sort of illegal export activity attractive to criminals”.