Government efforts to reduce its estate-waste back on track

State of the Estate report also finds progress towards greenhouse gas emissions target
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By Tevye Markson

19 Apr 2024

 

The government’s efforts to reduce the amount of waste it generates are back on track, according to the latest annual State of the Estate report for 2022-23, published today.

Last year’s report found that the government had increased its levels of waste by 21% compared to 2017-18, at odds with its 2021-2025 Greening Government Commitments target of reducing the amount of waste it generates by 15%.

But the latest report finds the government has exceeded the 15% target – reducing waste levels by 16% compared to the 2017-18 GGCs baseline. Some 15 of the 20 departments who have committed to the GGCs have also met or exceeded the target – with Defra one of the departments that is still off-target in reducing waste.

The GGCs set targets for government to reduce its environmental impact by 2025 against a 2017-18 baseline, with departments also receiving individual targets.

The report also finds that the government has reduced its overall greenhouse gas emissions – which includes transport emissions and emissions arising from grid electricity use in addition to direct emissions from its estate and operations – by 38% compared to a baseline of 2017-18, up from 35% in 2021-22. The government's aim is to reduce these emissions by 75% by 2032.

Direct greenhouse gas emissions – those just from its estate and operations – are now down by 12%, compared to 9% in 2021-22, and emissions just from its government buildings are down by 14%, compared to 10% the previous year. This has led to savings of more than £163m compared to 2017-18, according to the report.

The government also met the target of sending no more than 5% of waste to landfill. Only 51% of government waste was recycled, however, a fair way behind the 75% target.

A reduction in water consumption of 5%, meanwhile, fell short of the 8% target.

The report also finds that the property portfolio owned or managed by central government departments and their agencies has gotten smaller amid the high levels of disposals reported in December. As of 2022-23, the portfolio contains 141,600 buildings, has a total floorspace of 159 million square metres and a total value of £187.1bn – all down 1% on the previous year.

The report also shows the progress government has made in reducing its portfolio of central London buildings. The Government Property Agency’s Whitehall Campus Programme aims to reduce the central London estate from its baseline of 79 in 2018-19 to 17 buildings by 2030, and to accommodate no more than 40,000 civil servants. 

The so-called Whitehall Campus is now down to 43 buildings, with 10 buildings vacated in 2022-23. There are currently 74,000 civil servants in central London offices, as of 2022-23, compared to 92,000 in 2018-19, according to the report. 

Commenting on the report, Cabinet Office minister Alex Burghart, said: “We are committed to creating more modern and productive work environments where civil servants can be inspired and take pride in delivering the best possible service to the taxpayer.

“These savings on our energy bills, alongside the income generated through the disposal of unused property, will be reinvested into improving the overall quality of the public estate.”
 

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