Industry at a glance

Our industry provides services which are essential to modern life.
The companies that make up our sector collect the waste materials produced by households and businesses across the UK, treat it responsibly, and turn a large percentage of it into new resources and energy for the nation.


  • 27.4m tonnes – UK household waste
  • 27.7m tonnes – UK commercial and industrial waste
  • 55m tonnes – UK construction and demolition waste

(Source – Defra, Feb 2018

In recent years the industry has transformed itself:

  • Ten years ago, over three-quarters of Britain's waste went to land fill (compared to well under 50% today)
  • Resource & waste management was chiefly focused on the logistics of collection and transport.

While these still matter, the industry has developed a range of technologies to treat waste materials and extract value from it. Innovation is a constant feature of modern waste management.

ESA is at the forefront of debates about waste prevention and recycling, playing a vital role in driving higher standards within our industry.

Waste industry diagram FINAL.jpg

We provide an essential public service

The UK produces 75 million tonnes of household (municipal), commercial and industrial waste a year, roughly 200,000 tonnes per day. Collecting this waste is one of the UK's essential public services, like energy supply and the operation of our transport networks.

As with energy and transport, any significant interruption to this service is of huge concern to the public and threatens our quality of life.

ESA research has shown that two out of three people believe that waste collection is the most important service provided through local authorities.

We enable businesses and public authorities to stay compliant with EU law

UK waste policy is largely shaped by the EU Waste Framework Directive and in particular the 'Waste Hierarchy'.

The 'Waste Hierarchy'

According to that hierarchy, preventing waste arising in the first place is the ideal, and landfill ahould be the last resort for manageing waste

Reusing, recycling and recovering energy from the waste make up the middle of the hierarchy. We are helping make Britain's energy system more secure.

Britain's energy policy is under enormous pressures. One third of the UK's electricity generating capacity is due to close by 2020, including most of our coal and nuclear power stations. New coal plants would be too carbon intensive. New nuclear plants remain a possibility but are less certain in the aftermath of a number of incidents.

Wind is likely to continue to be installed, but delivers intermittent power. Gas power stations may fill much of the gap, but at the cost of increasing reliance on imported gas, much sourced as shale gas through processes which are attracting increasing opposition.

"The ESA is working with its members to deal with all these changes, and helps enable them to turn Britains waste into valuable resources, whilst protecting the environment"