Defra - Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Science Search

Science and Research Projects

Return to Science Search homepage   Return to Project List

Scenario Building for Future Waste Policy - WR1508

Developing Scenarios for Future Waste Policy presents a set of theoretical scenarios for waste arisings, which were modelled in preparation for the 2010 Waste Review. The scenarios modelled a broad range of potential impacts of different waste policies through to 2030. No scenario should be looked at in isolation. The scenarios are not predictions.

The scenarios were developed by policy makers and stakeholders who explored the trends and shocks which could have a significant impact on the resilience and operations of policies dealing with household, commercial and industrial waste. This report records some of the conclusions, focusing on four potential scenarios, although it is worth bearing in mind that there may be any number of alternative pressures and challenges in the future. The key benefit of taking this theoretical approach is to examine key relationships and the driving forces behind different external conditions, and to highlight potential future challenges that policy makers may need to address.

The four scenarios also contain a ‘reference’ scenario which starts from current trends, using readily available data* and assumes that there are no major shocks. It illustrates what the world could look like in a world where there is incremental change. However, again, this is not a prediction, just a model. This surprise-free future is contrasted with the three disruption-based scenarios which each have an essentially different change. All four scenarios describe radically different, yet plausible, futures, as described by changes in internal factors (which we can influence) and external factors (which we cannot control). As well as waste policy, the factors include economic growth, commodity markets, consumption patterns, and waste treatment technologies.

How were the scenarios developed?

Collaborative workshops were held with experts from central & local government, academia and industry, and this was combined with a quantitative model of future waste arisings and treatment options. For each scenario, a qualitative and narrative element describing a possible future world is supplemented by modelled quantitative illustrations for waste arisings, composition and treatment.

How can the scenario outputs be used?

As think pieces. The scenarios can be used to test the resilience of different measures in each of the four scenarios. Options that are resilient in all scenarios can be identified so that specific risks and opportunities can be explored. No single scenario should be focussed on as a potential line of travel for policy development.

The scenarios will also be used as a backdrop for developing longer-term evidence priorities in response to possible future challenges. For example, they could be examined to help tease out evidence requirements to help underpin or answer these challenges, or to allow us to choose between possible policy options.

Importantly, this exercise was undertaken to provide a national perspective. Translating these into a more localised situation may require other more specific factors to be taken into account in the analysis.

*Data sources for current and past waste arisings were used, e.g. WasteDataFlow for household waste, and are detailed in the report. The availability of quality data varies significantly between waste streams.

To explore a range of plausible long range futures for waste and waste policy.
Project Documents
• FRP - Final Report : Final Report - WR1508 Scenario Building for Future Waste Policy   (2368k)
• INF - Information Leaflet : Context Note - WR1508 Scenario Building for Future Waste Policy   (47k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2010

To: 2011

Cost: £141,450
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Z_punkt GmbH
Waste Management              
Fields of Study
Waste Management