Greener garbage: digital waste management is coming

Waste management expert Nathan Gray outlines what types of waste will be tracked, the wider benefits for businesses and society and what companies can do to comply.

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With 200 million tonnes of waste produced each year by the UK, digital waste management is set to revolutionise the sector, collecting and collating waste tracking data in one central location. The government plans to introduce mandatory digital waste tracking across the UK in 2024, which can help businesses analyse and accurately implement the right strategies to achieve their green goals.

Currently, waste tracking data is a mix of digital and paper-based, held mainly by private IT contractors with few centralised systems. As a result, it’s difficult to determine what happens to our waste and whether it’s been recycled, recovered or sent to landfill.

The new system should therefore bring a new era of efficiency, accuracy and sustainability.

When will digital waste tracking be introduced?

The exact details of the new scheme are yet to be released, but the general estimate is late 2023 or 2024. This will largely depend on the progress of requisite IT advancements and the transition needs of businesses. Businesses will likely need to submit information on the types of waste leaving the company, so will need up-to-date digital systems.

What types of waste will be tracked?

Under the new proposition, all types of waste will be tracked, making it easy to monitor all resources in real time in a new, more circular economy. This includes both hazardous and non-hazardous waste, industrial and green waste. All businesses will therefore be affected by the new system and will be monitored on the types and quantities of commercial waste produced.

What are the benefits for businesses?

In the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs’ findings, 79% of respondents agreed that the proposed types of waste should be tracked. This presents many clear benefits:

Enhanced sustainability

Accurate data allows businesses to determine how much waste they produce and their methods of disposal – be it recycling or landfill.
Analysis of this information can help inform greener practices, minimise environmental footprint and help them work towards carbon neutrality and zero-waste targets.

Improved compliance

Digital tracking systems will be mandatory, which will help businesses comply with waste regulations and report more efficiently.
Currently, there is little incentive, but the new scheme will provide a centralised platform to record, manage, and report waste data, making it easier to demonstrate adherence to environmental standards and avoid potential penalties for non-compliance.

Cost savings

Effective waste management is not just environmentally beneficial but can also help slash costs.

Digital waste tracking helps businesses identify inefficiencies in waste processes, leading to reduced waste disposal fees, lower material purchasing costs, and potential revenue generation from recycling and waste-to-energy initiatives.

It also gives businesses an effective overview of resource allocation so they can better establish waste generation trends.

Tackling waste crime

The Environment Agency’s national waste crime survey estimated that nearly a fifth of all UK waste may be illegally managed – that’s a shocking 34 million tonnes per year.

Concurrently, 20% of all waste operators are thought to engage in illegal activities. Digital waste tracking – in which everything is itemised – should therefore make waste crimes such as fly-tipping and illegal waste harder. Because authorities know exactly what waste is in circulation, the police are better equipped to deal with waste criminals.

How can businesses comply?

Details aren’t currently known about how exactly mandatory waste tracking will come into play. However, it’s likely information – including quantity, waste type and disposal method – will need to be submitted for every waste load leaving the premises. Businesses can stay savvy by conducting a complete review of their current waste processes and staying abreast of any government developments concerning the mandatory digital waste tracking system.

Nathan Gray, Head of Sustainability at Reconomy

Nathan is a specialist in Sustainability, Consultancy and Resource management and has 30 years worth of experience in advising both public and private sector UK and International clients. His focus is on measurable actions to help deliver the qualitative 'why' in the context of sustainability and climate change. His previous clients have included Gatwick Airport, Heathrow Airport Limited, Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan and Poundland.

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