| Technology News, Waste management

How Digital Waste Tracking is cleaning up the industry

 The waste industry has seen significant development and increase in innovation. However, the reality is that we’re still an industry reliant on slips of paper to operate.  Whether that be collection notes, annual waste transfer notes, or hazardous waste consignment notes; many businesses are quite literally drowning in a sea of paperwork.  

You only need to look at the retail supply chain sector to understand how slowly innovation has been to evolve the waste industry in this area. In today’s world, you can order something online, and every step of your parcel tracking is done digitally via emails, text messages, and even WhatsApp and Facebook notifications. Yet, our industry is still a long way from digitising waste management. As a business, we know just how challenging it is to track waste from cradle to grave. What’s more, for DEFRA the lack of visibility of true data opens our industry up to waste crime. 

What is digital waste tracking? 

In early 2022, a joint consultation was launched to consider mandatory digital waste tracking. Unlike many of the proposed legislative changes that impact our sector, the devolved nations of the UK are all in agreement that digital waste tracking is needed. With 713 responses, it’s clear that a significant transformation is necessary to enhance the efficiency and transparency of waste management. 

A surprising revelation from the consultation was the limited engagement from waste carriers, with only 123 responses, despite the substantial impact this change would have on the industry. On the other hand, nearly a third of UK’s local authorities participated, recognising the urgent need for improvement. Key findings from the consultation included: 

  • A strong consensus (79%) for digitally tracking both hazardous and non-hazardous household waste. 
  • A demand for detailed tracking of waste destinations, with a staggering 41% of Waste Transfer Notes (WTNs) currently missing critical information. 
  • A call for a gradual transition to real-time digital tracking, with timelines ranging from 1 to 3 years, depending on the waste type. 
  • 75% agreed with the proposed structure of fines and enforcement. This included fixed monetary penalties for failing to register on the waste tracking service and variable penalties for intentionally or recklessly providing incomplete or false information. 

Why do we need digital waste tracking?  

Defra outlined its commitments in the 2018 Resources & Waste Strategy for England and whilst a lot has been delayed, the fundamental principles are still just as valid today. The primary goal of implementing digital waste tracking is straightforward and multifaceted. Firstly, it aims to enhance the visibility of waste pathways from the point of production to final disposal. This increased transparency helps ensure compliance with regulations and plays a crucial role in reducing illegal activities associated with waste management. Additionally, by utilising comprehensive data collected through digital tracking, stakeholders can better consult on and enforce more effective waste management regulations.  

This system also supports the promotion of a circular economy by providing a clearer understanding of material flows, essential for optimising resource use and recycling processes. Moreover, by improving tracking and compliance, this initiative has the potential to significantly reduce the annual cost of waste crimes in the UK, a figure that currently amounts to an estimated £1 billion per year. 

What are the main principles of digital waste tracking?

Digital waste tracking introduces a streamlined approach that will enhance transparency and accountability across the waste management industry.  

Key components of this initiative include: 

  • Digital Record Requirement: A digital record must be established prior to waste being moved, relevant to all roles including waste carriers and receivers. 
  • Fee Structure: An annual fee of £20 is charged for creating records on the DEFRA portal, applicable across England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Viewing or confirming existing records is free of charge. 
  • Unique Identifier: Each waste movement is assigned a unique identifier for enhanced traceability. This identifier must be confirmed within two days of the waste’s collection and receipt. 
  • Responsibility: The waste carrier is primarily responsible for creating the record, although all parties involved have certain responsibilities to ensure compliance. 
  • Implementation Across UK: Set to replace traditional quarterly waste reporting and other administrative requirements, the system’s full implementation is scheduled for April 2025. 

Our involvement with Digital Waste Tracking

As a tech-enabled business managing resources across the UK, we are well placed to embrace Digital Waste Tracking (DWT) and are fully engaged with DEFRA on Beta testing across all our affiliated brands. 

At Reconomy, we will continue working with DEFRA to ensure digital waste tracking can deliver all the objectives listed above, making the transition as smooth as possible for our customers and suppliers to manage their current materials. 

Be sure to follow us on LinkedIn for updates on Digital Waste Tracking as they happen. 

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