The amount of harmful business waste sent to landfill has fallen, but it is not possible to say how much of this reduction is down to a £240 million government programme, according to a National Audit Office report published today. The NAO was unable to conclude whether the spending was value for money because the Department had not set specific, quantified targets for the Programme and it lacked reliable information on performance.

Jump to downloads

The businesses that received support from the Programme’s initiatives have reported benefits in terms of both cost and environmental improvements, and there should be longer term gains. The NAO’s survey of businesses found low awareness of the services available under the Programme. The Department does not accept that awareness was low, however, as the take-up was broadly comparable to another similar scheme. There has been no evaluation of the Programme to date.

The amount of business waste sent to landfill fell during the period of the Business Resource Efficiency and Waste Programme but most of this reduction related to construction, excavation and demolition waste which is less harmful to the environment. It is difficult to determine the extent to which the Programme, as opposed to other factors such as the increase in landfill tax and the recession, has reduced the amount of waste sent to landfill.

Commercial and industrial waste is more likely to generate harmful greenhouse gas, but the amount sent to landfill fell by only 2.3 million tonnes (11 per cent) between 2005 and 2008. Given this rate of progress, the Department may not meet its expectation, set in 2007, of a 20 per cent reduction by 2010, the NAO warns.

The Department’s approach to tackling business waste is not as developed as its approach to dealing with municipal waste, where there are binding targets in place. The Department does not have up to date information on how much business waste there is, or how much is being recycled, which makes it difficult for it to target its activities.

"There are indications that the Programme has delivered some positive results: participating businesses have reported benefits, and there should be further long term gains in terms of reductions in business waste. However, the low awareness of the Programme among businesses and the absence of clear targets and reliable information to measure progress mean we cannot say whether the Department achieved value for money from the £240 million spent on the Programme."

Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office


Publication details

Latest reports