Getting behind DEFRA Forecasts

Last month, DEFRA published an updated forecast for 2020 waste arisings and treatment capacity. At the time, the press focus was understandably on the withdrawal of PFI credits from Hertfordshire and that the amount of biodegradable municipal waste (BMW) sent to landfill in 2012 was already below the level required to meet the 2020 Landfill Diversion target.

For many this was no surprise – particularly given the way in which the target was redrawn in the light of the changed definition of municipal waste in 2011. However, lurking within DEFRA’s analysis some interesting nuggets emerge.

Firstly – apparent growth in commercial and industrial (C&I) waste arisings. Only a year ago DEFRA was assuming C&I waste arisings in 2020 would be 43.9 Mt; the latest view is 48.9Mt – an increase of 11%. This they put down to new data and changes to ‘economic growth forecasts’. Sounds good news for the economy if perhaps not so much for the environment.

But how does this then square with a significantly increased decline in household waste arisings of – yes – 11%. Are the two really that de-linked? The DEFRA forecasts model assumes that household waste volumes will continue to decline at an average of 2% each year until 2020. This is a higher average than seen over the last 3 years. DEFRA’s own statistics show that for the first three quarters of 2013-14 arisings were just 0.3% lower than the same period the year previously.

Does the difference between household waste and C&I waste projections suggest a very polarised resource efficiency agenda?

And then to household waste recycling. DEFRA had to assume the 50% target would be met. But it was only this time last year that they assumed something to spare. No great surprise there given recent trends.

What-ever ones views of their analysis, it is always good to see how DEFRA thinking works.

Download the DEFRA Forecasting report (PDF 950KB).


Author: Adrian Judge