Five companies working across the UK have been awarded up to £80,000 each to develop data-driven solutions to tackle the challenge of tracking waste from its source through its treatment and final disposal.
The UK generates more than 200 million tonnes of waste a year, however, the subsequent transport and disposal of this waste can be complicated and at times fragmented.
In November 2017, the Cabinet Office announced a £20m Innovate UK fund to encourage tech firms to deliver innovative solutions to public sector challenges, like the improvement of waste tracking and action against waste crime.
The successful projects include research into tracking waste through electronic chips and sensors, the use of blockchain, looking at common reporting platforms, and new data analytics.
Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said: "We want to move towards a more circular economy, where waste is valued as a resource and reused. We are also committed to cracking down on waste criminals who exploit the system.
"I look forward to seeing their innovative waste tracking solutions which will help us to meet these ambitions, and play their part in helping us achieve zero avoidable waste in the UK by 2050.
At the end of a three month feasibility stage, up to two projects may then be selected and funded up to £500,000 each to develop and field test a prototype in a second phase of GovTech Catalyst, expected to open later this year.
The £400,000 funding follows an independent review into serious and organised waste crime commissioned by Environment Secretary Michael Gove last year. The review found that the lack of digital record-keeping in the waste industry is frequently exploited by organised criminals who mislabel waste to avoid landfill tax or illegally export it.