The UK could face a crisis of abandoned landfill sites, with a claim that the Environment Agency (EA) has underestimated the cost of maintaining them, consultancy Eunomia has warned.
The Landfill Directive currently stipulates that aftercare should be funded by financial provision, a pot of money operators have to set aside to cover this and one pollution event. Operators agree this amount with the EA, which grants a permit based on revenue generated from expected tonnages.
But Eunomia has warned that tonnages at sites could fall by much more than expected in the next three years, hitting revenue from operators’ gate fees, which could lead to inadequate funds for aftercare management.
Managing director Mike Brown (left) and junior consultant Bethany Ledingham wrote on the firm’s Isonomia blog that this could lead to sites being abandoned in future.
“Landfills are closing earlier than planned. A sudden, sharp reduction in revenue may lead to operators being unable to honour their financial provision.
“Sites need to be managed when waste is no longer accepted and any open cells are being capped. This also extends into the aftercare period, when capping is completed but activities such as gas capture and leachate management may continue.
The authors urge greater regulation of sites to prevent build-up of problems like leachate.
They are also seeking more rigorous reassessments of financial provision, and want operators to be released early from aftercare liabilities provided they transfer the remaining financial provision towards a legacy fund.
Defra’s latest figures showed local authority-managed waste going to landfill in 2014 was down by 14.8% on the previous year while waste sent for incineration increased by 31.7%.
This trend is set to increase with the current EU target for the UK to recycle at least 50% of household waste by 2020.