Is Approach Wrong? Gordon Wood, Waste Management Spokesman for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in the West Midlands, Bemoans Today's Throw-Away Society

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Byline: Gordon Wood

I'm sure I am not alone in having purchased several computers over the past few years, simply to keep up with the latest technology. But where do all the old ones go?

Whatwe don't realise is that each of us produces about 450kg of waste annually adding to the 28 million tonnes of domestic refuse produced in the UK each year. What's more, for every tonne of domestic waste there is another five tonnes of waste at the manufacturing stage and about 26 tonnes from where the raw materials were extracted.

Local authorities have to deal with this domestic refuse and they are running out of space to put it.

Unfortunately, waste is a much maligned and ignored topic and the general attitude does seem to be 'out of sight out of mind'. Most people don't care where their rubbish goes, but they should.

We've come a long way since the 1974 Control of Pollution Act, the first real national attempt to control waste disposal. At that time, waste disposal sites were regulated but under the provisions of the 1990 Environmental Protection Act, a system of waste management which took account of how and where our rubbish was produced and where it ended up - a cradle to grave approach was produced.

But have we addressed things in the wrong order?

It is only recently that we have had to think seriously about the amount of stuff we throw away every day. Under the 1999 European Landfill Directive, the amount of waste we produce in the UK needs to be reduced to around 35 per cent of the 1995 total by the year 2015 - in order to meet current EC regulations.

The impact of the Landfill Levy has introduced new economics into the waste disposal industry. New landfill regulations have created design and regulation protocols that have been described by some as conflicting and even overkill. It's all adding to the cost of putting waste into the ground.

How do we deal with this?

All sorts of initiatives have started up including waste minimisation and looking at packaging (marketing guys and gals - do we really need as much). …