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Government provides £1 million for digital waste tracking systems

23/10/19

Mark Say Managing Editor

Two technology companies have been awarded Government funds to build prototypes of digital waste tracking systems.

Pile of rubbish by a park gate

Anthesis and Topolytics will receive up to £1 million between them under the GovTech Catalyst programme as part of the effort to clamp down on illegal movements of waste.

The move aligns with a clause in the Environment Bill, introduced to Parliament last week, for the introduction of compulsory electronic tracking of waste by companies that manage it.

It comes after an independent review of serious and organised waste crime, commissioned by the Home Office last year, found that the lack of digital record keeping is exploited by criminals who mislabel waste to avoid landfill tax of illegally export it.

A Government statement highlighted the potential for technologies such as blockchain, electronic chips and sensors as possible solutions.

Anthesis plans to use QR codes on mobile devices to record the identity of waste consignments, with the aim of making transactions faster and free of errors; while Topolytics plans to utilise data from a range of devices including apps and sensors on waste containers or vehicles.

Boosting regulators

The prototypes will be able to operate UK-wide to track waste prior to shipping to its final destination, and enable regulators to analyse and inspect the data. They should be ready for expert review in beta versions within 12 months.

The two companies were picked from a shortlist of five in a GovTech  Catalyst competition on dealing with the problem.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: “Waste crime causes economic, environmental and social harm in every community it blights. That’s why our transformative Environmental Bill will be a driving force for change – improving the way we manage our waste by creating powers to introduce an electronic waste tracking system.

“Both companies put forward impressive proposals to help modernise the waste system and help level the playing field by ensuring all businesses are adopting legitimate waste management practices. This is great news for the environment but bad news for those determined to exploit the system.”

Producer responsibility

The Environment Bill also includes plans to extend producer responsibility, new charges for other single-use plastic items, and requirements for clear product labelling to help consumers make purchasing decisions that support the market for more sustainable products.

The review showed a 43% leap in the number of waste piles, those bigger than the capacity of a lorry, over a year. Some 14,430 multi-load sized piles of rubbish were found dumped during 2017-18, up from 10,120 in 2016-17.

It also said the involvement of serious and organised criminal gangs in the waste sector appeared to be increasing.

Image by Jon Worth, CC BY 2.0 through flickr

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