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Data Deficiencies in Waste Management Policy and Practice - WR0801

Defra’s data strategy focuses on the collation of data on current waste arisings, in part to project future waste arisings. These subsequently provide vital inputs to policy and waste management planning decisions. The increasing complexity of waste management policy, planning and waste management contracts mean that it is increasingly important to understand the gaps and uncertainties in data used to inform decisions. The purpose of this research project is to determine the sensitivity of the decision-making process of Waste Management Authorities to the quality of data upon which waste management decisions are made and to identify the financial implications to PFI contracts. Identification of the key data gaps and uncertainties will greatly improve the assessment of risks related to policies, strategies, plans and contracts and point to where further research will be required under Defra’s data strategy.

Local Authorities are currently implementing integrated waste management strategies by awarding long term contracts of some complexity. The strategies have generally been developed by means of a BPEO analysis and are based on a number of assumptions for key parameters, which include, inter alia:

· Waste generation per capita
· Growth in waste generation over time
· Waste composition and its development over time
· Process performance
· Yields from separate collection schemes for recyclables

In future the analysis used to develop a BPEO will form a part of a broader strategic environmental assessment approach.

The amount that is understood about these parameters and the factors that influence them is currently limited and is largely based on historical data. The uncertainty which surrounds forecasts based upon this data leads to a degree of risk in the structure of contracts – either for the client (Local Authority) or, more usually, for the contractor, which may then factor the risk into the price quoted. More importantly, the assumptions made may also influence the choice of both process and processing capacity which may subsequently be found to be sub-optimal in the light of more accurate data projections.

The implicit impact of data deficiencies is a systematic tendency towards optimism. This typically results in underestimations of risk, mostly in terms of costs, capacity requirements, planning horizons / success factors and anticipation of future change, and overestimations of the reliability of the models used, the availability of technologies and finance, and of system performance.

We recognised that WRAP and others are carrying out work relevant to this study and we plan to identify such work, as part of the initial phase, in order to facilitate greater coherence. In the limited time available we have spoken to some relevant policy teams in Defra but propose that the inception phase of the research will involve meetings with key stakeholders to identify their key areas of concern.
1: Identify all the stages through which waste management facilities are brought into being, the guidance currently available to inform these stages and the tools and techniques used to undertake them.

2: Identify the data requirements and deficiencies within these tools and propose the outer bounds within which the parameters might reasonably be expected to vary

3: Review and refine the initial findings through dialogue with stakeholders across the many disciplines (policy, planning, finance, technology, contracting, future forecasting), culminating in a stakeholder workshop. In so doing, to identify areas where relevant work is ongoing and may benefit from greater coherence.

4: Test the sensitivity of the decision-making process to each of the selected parameters by using typical UK data reflecting different typologies of local authorities by modelling first the BPEO analysis / waste flows and then the financial implications.

5: Identify those variables to which the decision-making process is particularly sensitive and publish the findings in the form of recommendations to inform further R&D.

Steps 1 through 3 will review and refine the assumptions set out in the “Scientific Context” above and set a framework within which steps 4 and 5 will be progressed.
Project Documents
• Final Report : Diagram for Final Report (abridged version)   (112k)
• Final Report : Final report (abridged version)   (147k)
• Final Report : Final report (full version)   (632k)
• Final Report - Annex : Final report - short-term report   (187k)
• Final Report - Annex : Final report appendix   (663k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2005

To: 2007

Cost: £119,710
Contractor / Funded Organisations
AEA Technology
Decision Making              
Decision Support              
Decision Support Tools              
Decision support tools for strategic development              
Environmental Protection              
Establishing a sound database for waste management              
Methodologies/forecasting tools - data collection              
Policy Development              
Process Technology              
Waste collection and handling systems              
Waste Management              
Fields of Study
Waste Management