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Modelling the Impact of Lifestyle Changes on Household Waste Arisings - WR0107

Description
Considerable work has been done into understanding the nature and arisings of household waste. However, the impact of economic, social and consumer trends on the volume and composition of household waste has not been fully analysed. This research aimed to identify these relationships and develop a model capable of predicting the impact of different lifestyle trends on the household waste composition over the next 20 years.

The research aimed to develop an innovative and flexible model that would provide Defra with a clear idea of the economic, social, and consumer attitudinal and behavioural factors that are likely to have the greatest impact on future waste composition. The model was aimed to assist Defra by providing:

- Better tools for forecasting and planning in sustainable waste management policy, because the model includes possible socio-economic impacts.

- Inputs to help Defra prioritise policy strategies for waste reduction and behaviour change, thus mitigating future waste growth.

- An interactive model that can be used to explore the possible policy options available at local, regional and national level, and their likely impacts on the household waste stream.

The model that was constructed as a part of this research was developed using the most up-to-date data on waste arisings available in 2005, when the project began i.e. up to and including data for 2003/04. Following completion of the initial research and model development in July 2006, new data became available, which showed a divergence between the model predictions and the reported data from 2002-2006. Defra have commissioned further research to try to understand other factors that may have influenced these changes in waste growth patterns.

The divergence observed between the model forecasts and recent waste growth limits the application of the model for policy purposes, and means that caution should be used when interpreting the figures contained in the report and associated research documents. However, this project still allows exploration of future trends in waste composition, if not total quantity.

The project report comprises a number of documents. The information contained in each is described below:

- Summary Report SID5. This provides a brief overview of the project. It is the technical report and covers the methods, main findings and insights into the future.

- Annex 1: Main Report. This provides details of the primary research undertaken in the development of the forecasting tool.

- Annex 2: Inception Report. This report was delivered to Defra during the early stages of the project. It reports the findings of the scoping study and describes the plan for developing the model in detail.

- Annex 3: Interim Report. This paper reports the development of the forecasting model and the work to determine the impact of future trends on consumer expenditure and consumption.

- Annex 4: Supplementary Model Validation Report. This documents a specific element of the additional research that was undertaken between July 2006 and August 2007. It attempts to answer the question: ‘If the model were to have been built in the year 2000, what levels of waste growth would it have forecast for the years that we now have reported statistics?’

- Annex 5: Supplementary Divergent Trend Analysis Report. This annex describes the additional research that was undertaken between July 2006 and August 2007 to investigate possible explanations for the divergences between the forecast and actual levels of waste arisings.

- Supplementary Report SID5. This provides a summary of the additional work described in Annex 5.

Objective
The specific objectives were:

1. Scoping and Data Gathering

The scoping study led to a broad understanding of the potential inter-relationships between lifestyles and waste. Following the scoping study, the decision was made to design the forecasting tool as an ‘Input-Output’ model based around the fact that most household waste is generated by consumers’ expenditure. The prototype model showed very good agreement with historical trends when the model outputs were compared with published waste data. This model provided an excellent basis for the next stage; generating future forecasts.

2. Analysis and Consultation

The analysis of the quantitative impact of different drivers led to the identification of twelve key drivers and trends that are likely to have the greatest impact (either positively or negatively) on household waste volume and composition over the next 15 years. These are:

• Increase in consumer affluence
• Increase in single society living
• Culture of lifestyle change (e.g. house moves, divorce, retirement, etc.)
• Growth of the ‘experience’ economy (e.g. spending on experiences rather than goods)
• Shortening product life cycle
• Growth of tele-working and the knowledge economy
• Increasing life expectancy
• Lifestyle choices of the ‘baby boom’ generation
• Growth of online, convenience shopping
• New regulations and legislation
• Perceived effect of climate change
• Increase in ethical consumption

These findings were presented at a project research consultation workshop, involving a broad spectrum of stakeholders. The feedback demonstrated broad support for the proposed modelling approach and specific contributions were used to inform the development of the predictive model.


3. Model Construction

There are two main ways in which the model was designed to be used. It can be used for future forecasting; the model can provide a range of predictions, including the overall level of household waste generated and a breakdown of this total into the key ‘product’ waste streams. The model can also be used in a backcasting mode. If the user begins from the baseline model predictions, they can investigate how far the assumptions used in the model would need to be changed in order for the model to come up with an alternative prediction. The assumptions and data varied may include those that are likely to be susceptible to waste policy interventions (e.g. local waste collection service arrangements) and also socio-economic factors beyond the realm of waste policy (e.g. disposable income; number of single person households). By assessing the changes needed to achieve the desired outcome, the user can make a judgement both about how sensitive the model is to the input data and assumptions, and about how difficult it would be to achieve the desired outcome.
Project Documents
• Final Report : WR0107 "Modelling the Impact of Lifestyle Changes on Household Waste Arisings" - Summary Report   (362k)
• Final Report : WR0107 "Modelling the Impact of Lifestyle Changes on Household Waste Arisings" - Summary Report of Additional Research   (190k)
• Final Report - Annex : WR0107 "Modelling the Impact of Lifestyle Changes on Household Waste Arisings" - Annex 1: Main Report   (709k)
• Final Report - Annex : WR0107 "Modelling the Impact of Lifestyle Changes on Household Waste Arisings" - Annex 2: Inception Report   (477k)
• Final Report - Annex : WR0107 "Modelling the Impact of Lifestyle Changes on Household Waste Arisings" - Annex 3: Interim Report   (515k)
• Final Report - Annex : WR0107 "Modelling the Impact of Lifestyle Changes on Household Waste Arisings" - Annex 4: Additional Research   (312k)
• Final Report - Annex : WR0107 "Modelling the Impact of Lifestyle Changes on Household Waste Arisings" - Annex 5: Additional Research   (240k)
• Information Leaflet : WR0107 "Modelling the Impact of Lifestyle Changes on Household Waste Arisings" - Research Information Note   (23k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2005

To: 2010

Cost: £179,314
Contractor / Funded Organisations
AEA Technology
Keywords
Behaviour change              
Biowaste              
Consumer              
Economics              
Effective household waste prevention              
Environmental Effects              
Environmental Impact              
Environmental Impacts              
Environmental Protection              
Establishing a sound database for waste management              
Household              
Human Activities              
Impact              
Impact assessment              
Modelling              
Modelling/Projections              
Policy Development              
Social Dimension              
Social Research              
Sustainable Consumption and Production              
Sustainable Resource Consumption and Management              
Understand/enhance pro-environmental behaviour              
Understanding resource flows              
Understanding socio-economic benefits of recycling              
Understanding waste composition and trends              
Waste              
Waste Management              
Fields of Study
Waste Management