Around £17 billion could also be saved from the annual budgets of British
businesses by reducing waste, a Government analysis has said.
Asked about the “major challenges” of his role advising the Government, Prof
Mackay told a Department of Energy and Climate Change newsletter: “One
difficult challenge is the way in which economic activity and growth
currently is coupled to buying lots of stuff and then throwing it away.
“When a fridge, clothes-washer, or microwave develops a fault we throw it away
instead of repairing it. Car manufacturers love us to buy a new car every
Prof MacKay, who wrote the book “Sustainable Energy - without the hot air” and
teaches at Cambridge University, claimed that products could be taken apart
at the end of their lifetimes so that parts can be recycled.
“The whole system could use significantly less energy if we designed things to
last, if we only bought things we need to use, if we used them for their
full life, repairing them when necessary, and then disassembled them
carefully so that components could be re-used,” he added. “How can we get
there from here?”
His comments about people purchasing too many vehicles came as figures showed
that car sales increased by almost 11 per cent in 2013. Car sales have
soared to their highest level since before the recession.
According to government figures, about 228 million tonnes of waste is thrown
away every year in England.
Prof MacKay’s comments chime with a recent policy paper released by the
Department for Food and Rural Affairs, which is run by Owen Paterson.
The document said that ministers want to move “beyond our current throwaway
society to a ‘zero waste economy’ in which material resources are reused,
recycled or recovered wherever possible and only disposed of as the option
of last resort”.
The paper added: “It means reducing the amount of waste we produce and
ensuring that all material resources are fully valued – financially and
environmentally – both during their productive life and at ‘end of life’ as
A spokesman for the environment department said: “We are making it easier for
people to make their own choices about reusing and recycling household
items. Reducing waste not only benefits the environment but can save people
An energy department source on Tuesday night referred to Prof MacKay’s
comments as his “personal view”.
Peter Lilley, the Conservative MP for Hitchin and Harpenden who sits on the
Commons energy and climate change committee accused the professor of
“shooting himself in his policy foot”.
He said that projections have shown that “more efficient” appliances could
lead to a 27 per cent reduction in household energy use.
“If we repair the inefficient ones we will consume far more energy,” Mr Lilley
He added: [Prof MacKay] should either decide whether he’s chief scientific
adviser [at DECC] or whether he’s going to join Friends of the Earth and
knit his own socks.”
Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative MP for Richmond Park, said: "We generate
enough rubbish in this country to fill the Albert Hall every hour, and
sooner or later that's going to have to change. Among other things, that
means making things that last, can be repaired and eventually recycled."