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Defra proposes changes to landfill diversion target calculations - UPDATE

Changes are being considered by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to the way waste going to landfill in the UK is classified and calculated.

The existing approach focuses on waste collected by local authorities from households. The new classification would include more commercial waste, to help bring greater convergence between the management of household and commercial waste. The change is expected to bring the UK approach into line with that of a number of other European member states.

Defra said that in practice it will not mean any additional waste will be sent to landfill.

However, the way information is recorded will change, which will show an increase in the amount of waste to landfill that is reported within the municipal waste category. This includes commercial waste of a similar composition to household waste. As a result, changing the way municipal waste is counted will mean amending the baseline on which the landfill diversion targets were set.

In a website statement Defra explained that it was confident that England would still remain on course to meet its 2010 landfill targets but was not clear how the changes would affect the Landfill Allowance Trading Scheme.

The Governments announcement comes after the Environment Agency reported that England was on track to meet its LATS 2010 targets (see MRW story).

Commenting on the changes, AEA Technology practice manager Adam Read told MRW: This approach makes a lot of sense in terms of the ongoing debate between commercial and municipal waste. It encourages local authorities to treat material streams in a more efficient and effective way, which is what they do in Europe.

However, are they going to amend the baseline from the landfill target set? And will that affect the LATS target and operation of trading in England?

It will add confusion, after you encouraged everyone to think about municipal and then asked them to think about commercial waste.

He said that local authorities and waste operators would need more guidance on the proposals.

Sita external affairs director Gev Eduljee said he welcomed Defras proposals because they would provide greater clarity and compatibility with municipal and commercial waste terms. He said: Food waste from households will be treated the same way as food waste from commercial and industrial premises. But he also urged the Government to tread carefully with the changes.

Eduljee added that Defra would now have to think very hard about alternative infrastructure delivery, to treat the much larger volumes of waste that will now be coming out of our landfills.

He said: The National Audit Office stated recently that even for current municipal wastes the prognosis for meeting 2013 and 2020 diversion targets was touch-and-go, primarily because of the slowness of the planning process. Add to those volumes and far greater volumes of commercial and industrial waste that will now be diverted, and the scale of the challenge for treatment infrastructure delivery becomes clear.

Defra state: Making this change is an opportunity to review the range of policies in place to divert waste from landfill. This includes considering the role that the Landfill Allowance Schemes have to play, planned increases in the landfill tax, and potentially additional restrictions or bans at landfill.

The Government intends to consult on the implications of the change, including the impact on LATS, in the new year.

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