Council leaders are calling on the government to ensure its waste review comes up with “radical approaches” to cutting the cost of dealing with waste at a time when council budgets are under unprecedented pressure.
The call came from the Local Government Association (LGA) at its annual conference, held last week, where it was also claimed that the UK will run out of landfill space in less than eight years time unless recycling rates are boosted.
Analysis by the LGA reveals that households in the UK send more than 18.8million tonnes of rubbish to landfill every year, which is said to be more than any other country in the European Union. According to the LGA, figures from 2008 show that 57million tonnes of waste were landfilled in England and Wales and with just 650million cubic metres of space left in landfill capacity if the UK continues to landfill rubbish at the same rate, capacity will be reached by 2018.
The Association pointed towards local authorities such as Cambridgeshire County Council and Bexley Council which have been leading the way in diverting waste from landfill having already met forthcoming landfill diversion targets. However, the organisation warned that more needs to be done if taxpayers are to avoid swingeing fines in future.
LGA environment board chair Gary Porter said: “With the current financial squeeze that all councils are facing, it is more important than ever that they work with residents to make sure as much rubbish as possible is recycled to avoid being hit by heavy fines.
“Taxpayers face huge financial penalties if targets to reduce the amount of rubbish sent to landfill are not met.”
The LGA did not offer any indication of what it hoped the outcome of the Government’s review on waste policy will be, although it did point to the use of different techniques by councils to work out which approach to waste management works best for a particular area.
These calls from the LGA came the same week that the association produced a report entitled Knowing me, Knowing EU looking at the impact of EU laws on local councils.
The report recognises the importance of the EU Landfill Directive in helping to fundamentally change councils’ approaches to waste management and acknowledges that the Directive has been instrumental in diverting huge amounts of waste from landfill. However, it points out that there is more that needs to be done, particularly in relation to biowaste.
LGA European and international strategy group member councillor David Sparks said: “It is vitally important that we get EU legislation right, and we understand the EU is still looking at action on kitchen and garden waste (biowaste). We need to ensure this and future proposals to coordinate waste legislation address councils’ concerns, and do not add to them.”