As part of the strategy, all single-use plastics will be removed from the central government estate by 2020 © 123RF
As part of the strategy, all single-use plastics will be removed from the central government estate by 2020 © 123RF

Government to ‘lead by example’ by procuring sustainably

2 January 2019

The UK government has unveiled a new strategy around waste and resources, pledging it will “lead by example through procurement” .

The strategy for England, published by the Department for Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), said the government was establishing a more “strategic and robust” approach to ensure social value and sustainability are at the heart of public procurement.

As well as supporting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal for responsible consumption and production, the strategy said that increased sustainability in government procurement can help to generate less waste and drive demand for resource-efficient goods and services, as well as stimulating innovation.

As part of the strategy, social value will be used as a metric in the assessment of contractors, where it will be considered and balanced against cost. All government departments will also have to report on the social value impact of major contracts.

To support the new procurement requirements, the civil service will train its 4,000 commercial buyers in how to take account of social value and procure from social enterprises.

The strategy supports the commitment set out by the government in its 25-year environmental plan in January 2018, which pledged to leave the environment in a better condition for the next generation by tackling environmental issues such as air quality, waste and sustainable resources.

By 2023, the government aims to produce a nationally agreed list of recyclable materials to be collected from homes and businesses, as well as introducing mandatory labelling of packaging to ensure consumers can identify recyclable items. The strategy also reveals that the government is looking to achieve a 50% recycling rate for household waste by 2020.

“This is our blueprint for eliminating avoidable plastic waste over the lifetime of the 25-year plan, doubling resource productivity, and eliminating avoidable waste of all kinds by 2050,” it said.

The latest strategy also outlined government plans to remove single-use plastics from the central government estate by 2020, following prime minister Theresa May’s announcement in January 2018 that plastic cutlery and cups would be banned from government buildings within Whitehall. In November, the Foreign Office reported that it had reduced its use of single-use plastics by 97%.

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