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Feature: Agenda is set for UKs waste strategy

Last week saw the launch of the Government’s waste strategy consultation, which opened the doors for public debate on how the country’s waste should be managed in the future.

New “more ambitious” targets for recycling and composting were proposed — pushing the goals for household waste recycling to 40% by 2010, 45% by 2015 and 50% by 2020. These are up “significantly” from 30% and 33% proposed in the Waste Strategy 2000 (WS2000) for 2010 and 2015 respectively. The overall recovery target of 67% by 2015 remains.

The highly emotive topic of incineration or energy-from-waste (EfW) also cropped up. The consultation document proposes that the UK requires three times as much EfW by 2020, but Environment Minister Ben Bradshaw said this was less than the Government originally proposed in its WS2000. The Government now proposes that 27% of the country’s waste be turned into energy by 2020, less than the 34% by 2015 put forward originally.

Bradshaw also emphasised that EfW would not be promoted at the expense of recycling or waste reduction but was part of an overall waste solution. In defence of the technology’s poor public reputation, Bradshaw said fear of incineration was “outdated” and modern incinerators were much cleaner than in the past.

Prevention was still at the top of the waste hierarchy, which Bradshaw confirmed remained the same: placing reduction, re-use and recycling above EfW and landfill.

The consultation proposes greater emphasis on “eco-design” and more engagement with businesses and householders on waste prevention and a move towards a “recycling culture”.

Focus has also turned to commercial and industrial waste, which makes up the bulk of the waste stream, with new targets proposed for the reduction of commercial and industrial waste sent to landfill.

A “joined-up” approach and better integration of waste streams and Government policies was also seen as vital to improving the country’s waste management — a point those in industry raised in the Government’s waste review last year.

High on the agenda was viewing “waste as a resource” and the need to develop markets for recycled materials. Bradshaw said he was keen to see home markets for recycled materials develop.

The consultation document also covers simplifying the regulatory system, extending producer responsibility, working with smaller businesses, devising a management plan for waste imports and exports, wider strategic roles for local authorities and dealing with waste crime.

People will be able to respond to the consultation online at: www.defra.gov.uk/environment/waste/strategy/review

STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment (INCPEN) director Jane Bickerstaffe says the consultation is a “good step forward and step in the right direction”. INCPEN has consistently said that energy recovery is part of the solution, and it is the area where the UK lags significantly behind its European neighbours.

“Councils have done a brilliant job, but where we are out of sync is with energy-from-waste (EfW). We&rsqu

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