There could be just one landfill site per county by 2020, according to a new study.
With falling inputs forcing down gate fees, uneconomic sites are predicted to be closed until there are just 55 non-hazardous landfills left across England, the study by Tolvik Consulting found.
This would be a dramatic fall from the 251 landfill sites currently in operation.
The report projects that if the current trend in recycling rates, with a slowdown in improvement, is maintained, and construction of waste treatment infrastructure continues at current levels, England will “comfortably meet its Landfill Directive target for 2020”. The target will be exceeded by 3.5Mt according to the report.
Landfill inputs could fall by 45% over the next decade, but England would still have a greater reliance on landfill than most of the rest of northern Europe.
The report also showed there had been an increase in the remaining life of landfill, saying .
It said: “There has been a steady increase over the last six years in the remaining life at non-hazardous landfills - with the current total of 446Mm3 representing the equivalent of just under 11 years of [unused space]. At a national level, therefore, the spectre of ‘running out of landfill’ has long since passed.”
The report insists landfill must remain economically viable as it will remain the most appropriate destination for certain waste streams – tand recommends operators diversify. Sites could be used for alternative waste management and energy infrastructure, agriculture, leisure and mining.
Tolvik said: “There is little doubt that landfill operators face a challenging future but the key to maintaining a profitable landfill business will be to carefully monitor the local market, maintain dialogue with the regulators, actively manage void (and cost base) and, where possible, identify additional revenue opportunities for the site.”