The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is researching how landfill bans on materials such as paper, food, glass, aluminium or wood could be implemented in the UK.
It comes after environmental charity Green Alliance recently completed a consultancy report for Defra called Landfill bans and restrictions in the EU and US ( August 2009).
The aim of the report was to analyse four EU countries (Austria, Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands), the Flanders region of Belgium and a US state (Massachusetts) that have implemented restrictions or bans on the landfilling of a range of waste materials.
The reports summary states: We feel that this project is timely. Despite an impressive increase in household recycling rates in recent years, the UK is still heavily reliant on landfill, the final destination for 54 per cent of municipal waste, 41 per cent of commercial and industrial waste and 31 per cent of construction and demolition waste.
A Defra spokeswoman told MRW: The research weve published shows not only that landfill bans have been very effective in other countries and regions waste to landfill in Germany decreased from 27 per cent to 1 per cent, for example among other interesting results. It also shows that these countries and regions already had pretty good recycling rates by the time they introduced landfill bans between around 30 per cent and 50 per cent. In the UK our recycling rate is currently 36 per cent, so were certainly on the right road, but we are still sending 54 per cent of our waste to landfill.
Defra has been exploring the possibility of banning or restricting some materials for some time. In June, when announcing the Packaging Strategy, Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said: Take food, glass, aluminium or wood why would you put any of them into landfill when they can be recycled, or used to make energy? What sort of a society would throw away aluminium cans worth £550 a tonne when aluminium producers are crying out for the raw material?
The Landfill bans and a restriction in the EU and US report asserts that it is not clear that landfill tax will be sufficient on its own to attract the necessary investment in alternatives [to landfill].
A Defra spokeswoman said: In terms of next steps, were also researching how landfill bans could work in this country what infrastructure and resources would be needed, what the impact would be, how effective it would be, etc this research will be published in October/November.
We then aim to consult on proposed landfill bans for certain materials by the end of the year/beginning of next year. Our argument is that the research published shows that landfill bans work, and have been working in a number of places for years, so why shouldnt they work here thats essentially what we want to know and that is our next step.
The results of the report show that all the countries in the study believe that the landfill bans had succeeded in achieving their objectives. However, there were differing emphases on what should replace landfill and interviewees said that landfill bans and restrictions had been deployed as one instrument in a range of fiscal, regulatory and other interventions aimed at diverting waste away from landfill.