State of Play: Where is waste management now and what next for 2023?

Predictions in a complex field like waste management

In a world that is largely defined by data, there are many different techniques and tools such as statistical analysis, modelling, and machine learning that can be applied for the purposes of trend analysis and making predictions.

However, in an area such as waste management there are a lot of moving parts, including factors such as legislation and social influences that do not readily lend themselves to being described by data. That’s why making specific waste management forecasts for 2023 is a bit of a tricky game!

As part of understanding the bigger picture with waste management and environmental matters, it is essential that we temper our enthusiasm and desire for change with a heavy dose of realism. The existing systems and processes we have are deeply embedded within the fabric of the economy and society. This means that effecting rapid change is an unrealistic proposition.

We must accept that it is a battle of attrition where we have to be persistent and grind away at the barriers that oppose progress. Achieving Net Zero and creating a more sustainable world is a wall that we build one brick at a time. If we avoid falling into the trap of being specific and look at the bigger picture, we can see where 2022 brought us how major initiatives and events are likely to evolve during 2023.

Waste management and the environment in 2023

DRS – Across the UK DRS (deposit return scheme) preparations continue, with Scotland ready to roll on the 16th of August 2023. However, key elements that will determine the level of effectiveness of the scheme in England and Wales remain undecided. Lobby groups are really pushing for the ‘all-in’ version of the scheme which would include containers of all sizes, rather than the ‘on-the-go’ scheme that only covers containers up to 750ml. For 2023, early results from DRS Scotland are likely to filter down into forthcoming UK schemes.

EPR and the era of simple packaging – EPR (extended producer responsibility) comes at the problem of packaging waste from the other end. Ultimately it is intended to make manufacturers financially liable for the collection and recycling of packaging. This is likely to focus the minds of producers on design and manufacture of packaging that has the least environmental impact. Soaring inflation and the cost of living crisis only heightens this through 2023, as the simpler the packaging, the more likely it is to be cheaper to produce.

Glass: To DRS or not DRS? – Another sticking point in the ‘all-in’ version of the scheme is glass. The lobby to omit glass from the DRS is very active. It might be counterproductive to include glass, because data from countries where glass is included in DR schemes suggests an increased use of plastic packaging.

Data from countries such as Norway and Sweden show glass recycling rates are approaching 90% without DRS, suggesting that improving existing household and bottle bank programs supported by more consistent collections and good communication campaigns to educate residents might be a better option. With DRS in England not scheduled until at least the end of 2024, expect a significant amount of activity around the issue if glass through 2023, as there is still sufficient time to make revisions to current proposals.

COP28 – 30 November – 12 December 2023 – United Arab Emirates – COP27 cemented the case for compensating the developing nations that are currently experiencing the worst effects of climate change. However, making the case and agreeing on a fund is one thing, creating it and making payments to affected nations commensurate with the level required to make a difference is quite another.

There is a pattern to the process of a COP event. Successive years have seen ambitious proposals ‘agreed’ during meetings, only to be watered down by horse trading before final texts have been published. This is set to continue at COP28 in 2023 as reaching a global consensus that countries with vastly differing priorities are willing to sign up to remains highly elusive.

Public-Private partnerships – Public-Private partnership on wider environmental initiatives as well as waste management seem to be the best way of moving sustainability forward quickly. Only by allowing the private sector to develop the commercial opportunities that lie within the waste management field can we encourage the investment needed to accelerate change.

The public purse is not bottomless, and despite years of austerity, it has a rather large hole. The limited funds available are desperately needed elsewhere. One example of Public-Private partnership is Biffa’s role as a DRS partner for the scheme in Scotland, commencing in 2023. Public-private partnership is also a very good way to promote the ideals of sustainable business and conscious capitalism.

Circular Economy – There is growing interest in the building of a more circular economy. In the UK, Thérèse Coffey environment secretary, is well versed in the logic and the urgency of achieving higher levels of recycling and reusing resources to reduce the need for virgin materials.

Plastic remains an area of significant focus. Many plastic packaging products are not infinitely recyclable, due to the breakdown in molecular polymer chains through successive reprocessing and remanufacturing cycles. Reducing the amount of such end-of-life plastic material is going to influence just how circular the economy can become.

Much like the paperless office, a perfectly round circular economy is an ideal that is out of reach. However, during 2023 and beyond, expect a lot more focus on the elements of waste management that can optimised to deliver the most circularity.

More efficient waste management solutions from Whitespace

In the main the direction of travel is positive. However, things are moving slowly and there is still much to be done. We need to increase the pace of change and to be more ambitious.

To find out more about Whitespace Municipal Waste Management solutions, please get in touch by calling us on +44 (0)1483 231 650 or emailing us at

Book a demo

See Whitespace Work Software for yourself with a personalised demonstration

Book a demo with one of our waste management experts to see how Whitespace Work Software can transform your waste management operations.

  • For information on how we will use any data you share with us, please see our privacy policy.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Signup to the Whitespace newsletter

Receive monthly emails with the latest news, blogs, advice guides and product updates.

  • For information on how we will use any data you share with us, please see our privacy policy.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.