Skip to main content

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have released new figures showing that businesses are allocating the largest proportion of their environmental protection costs to waste management.


Statistics from the ‘Environmental Protection Expenditure by Industry, 2011’ report shows that in that year, businesses in the UK spent £3 billion on environmental protection, with £2.4 billion of that spent on operational costs and £317 million being spent on research and development.

The figures form a part of an annual survey into environmental protection expenditure as required under the European Union (EU) Structural Business Statistics Regulation, which shows that the total expenditure increase by five per cent on 2010 levels.

Despite only 225 companies responding to the survey (of 1,062 contacted), Defra noted that the response rate (21 per cent) was ‘one of the highest in recent surveys’.

Businesses covered by the survey were:

  • mining and quarrying;
  • basic and fabricated metals;
  • food, beverages and tobacco products;
  • machinery and electrical equipment;
  • coke and refined petroleum;
  • energy production and distribution;
  • chemicals and pharmaceuticals; and
  • water supply and treatment.

Survey findings

Of the £3 billion spent by business, 32% of operational costs were spent on solid waste management, with wastewater treatment 24%, air pollution 17% and nature protection 15% following behind. Businesses also spent money on soil and groundwater measures 4%, noise pollution 1% and ‘other’ 5%.

The industries found to be spending the most on environmental protection were energy production and distribution £632 million and the food, beverages and tobacco products sector £320 million. Defra has estimated that a further £593 million was spent by ‘other’ manufacturing industries that did not respond to the survey.

Deputy Chief Executive of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) Chris Murphy spoke of the figures:

“Looking at the top line figures, it seems that operational costs for businesses reflect the increase in Landfill Tax and gate fees over the period covered, and this is a trend that will continue until companies implement waste prevention initiatives and other resource efficiency measures.”

He continued:

“One point that offers much reassurance is that there has been a large year-on-year increase on research and development expenditure. Businesses are increasingly focusing their attention on research and development to help ensure long-term benefits, and this will support the overarching aim of moving towards a fully circular economy.”


Environmental Protection Expenditure Survey, 2011’.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Resource UK