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Role of third sector organisations in waste management

The third sector encompasses a wide range of value-driven organisations, including voluntary and community organisations, charities, co-operatives and social enterprises. There are an estimated 1000 third sector organisations working with waste in England, with particular strengths in:

  • waste prevention – e.g. in encouraging behaviour change among individuals;
  • re-use – e.g. through provision of household appliances and furniture to those in need, charity shops and electronic services like Freecycle; and
  • separate kerbside collection of specific materials, which the sector pioneered (e.g. separate collection of food waste), so achieving high participation rates in recycling and composting.

The Government wants to make greater use of third sector expertise in waste management and to capitalise on the multiple benefits – social, economic and environmental – it can bring to communities. These wider benefits typically involve training and employment opportunities to disadvantaged members of society and the provision of low cost furniture and other household items to those in need.

Building capacity

The most successful third sector waste organisations have moved well beyond the traditional niche of community engagement to win large mainstream contracts with local authorities and businesses. The Government wants third sector organisations to win an even bigger share of the waste management market.

England’s Waste Strategy 2007 announced that the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) will be developing a programme of capacity building support to help third sector organisations operate in the waste and recycling sector.

Recycling credits

Local authorities are encouraged to give full consideration to paying recycling credits to third parties, including third sector organisations, whose activities to reuse or recycle waste complement their own waste objectives.

Useful links and further information

Defra published a review of third sector waste organisations (PDF 1.10 MB) in England in 2006, which looked at the contribution of the sector to waste objectives and presented a number of options for future support.

The Office of the Third Sector was established in 2006 to drive forward the Government's role in supporting a thriving third sector.

Third sector network organisations:

Page last modified: 24 May 2007
Page published: 5 February 2003

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