Speaking at a Local Action on Climate Change Summit in London (26 November), Denham said that tackling waste was important for the Governments plans to move the UK to a low carbon economy.
Denham said: Developing better uses for waste is going to be an essential part of our broader preparations for low-carbon living. In fact, taking advantage of new technologies means that much of the waste present will turn out not to be waste as we see it at present at all as it can be re-used to generate energy. That means councils starting to plan now for appropriate infrastructure which will cut waste and promote low carbon energy.
He also said that councils such as Sheffield and Nottingham had been turning waste into power for years and others like Stockport had used their powers to trade to generate money from their recycling services.
However, he added: Yet figures published earlier this year showed a striking variation between the most effective and efficient councils and the rest. Too many are continuing to send recyclable and compostable waste to landfill and missing the chance to generate heat and EfW.
In response to Denhams speech, a Local Government Association spokesman said that councils needed to see the revenue raised from landfill tax returned to them in a clear and transparent way if they are to build the infrastructure they need to boost recycling rates and that included EfW.
Denham also stated that the Government had plans to develop local carbon budgets [A cap on the total quantity of greenhouse gas emissions emitted in the UK over a specified time].
He said that he envisaged local carbon budgets encompassing waste and small scale renewable energy schemes. He explained that the budgets would not be traded but would act as a target, based on councils own analysis and priorities and on the way that they worked in the local area agreements.
This would be an approach based on partnership: a deal freely entered into on both sides with local authorities volunteering greater action in return for support from central Government.
We should be enabling councils to go as far as they believe is possible, giving them an ability to take responsibility across the wider economy.
Friends of the Earth's executive director Andy Atkins said: "It looks like the Government is starting to get serious about the crucial role that local councils must play in tackling climate change - but Government action is required to ensure that every council plays its part in meeting UK climate targets. Ministers should introduce local carbon budgets and provide adequate financial support to help ensure that every local authority cuts its emissions in line with the latest scientific evidence.
"A strong local carbon budget framework would help the UK meet its targets for tackling climate change, create local jobs and help the UK in developing a greener future."