Planning and estimating potential diversion

This section describes two basic steps that should be completed by a local authority in the initial stages of planning a waste prevention programme. It is important to understand the nature of the waste collected before an estimation of the impact of specific waste prevention activities is made.

Key points

  • Use waste prevention diversion estimates to establish the main waste streams by tonnage in your area that you can influence.
  • Use of local data will give you a better estimate.
  • Predicting diversions and savings is not an exact science – unknown and / or uncontrollable factors will influence the final outcome.
  • Use WRAP’s ‘ready reckoner’ Waste Prevention Calculator to make initial estimates: 

Initial planning with waste composition data

The starting point is understanding the nature of the waste collected and the elements that can be influenced by waste prevention activity.

Ideally you should use compositional data specific to your area to determine where to focus your effort. 

For the purposes of the Household Waste Prevention Hub, the typical composition of local authority collected waste is highlighted in the figure contained in Chapter 4 of Defra’s Waste and Resource Statistics 2015.

Composition of local authority collected waste, England 2010/11

Graph showing composition of local authority collected waste in England in 2010 and 2011


Potential diversion

The next step is to examine the impact of specific waste prevention activities that can be applied to your key waste streams and determine the amount of diversion that could be achieved. 

For illustrative purposes the diversion tonnage is presented for an example authority with the following characteristics:

  • 100,000 households
  • 230,000 residents.
  • 98,000 tonnes of household waste of which 3,000 tonnes is bulky waste.
  • 110,000 tonnes of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW).
  • 5,000 babies are born each year.

The table below indicates the estimated potential diversion for the example authority based on the example scenario given above. This shows that bulky waste re-use and reducing food waste have the potential to divert the most tonnage. This is likely to be true for your area but you should work out the tonnage using the assumptions and apply them to your own data. You can use the ready reckoner to do this:


The limitations of this approach are:

  • Data is merely illustrative. Many factors will affect the outcomes in each case. 
  • For some activities you may wish to consider, there is currently no or limited data to establish a likely diversion. This hub provides guidance on monitoring and evaluation which may help you make predictions.