The Government has launched a consultation on the prospect of introducing landfill restrictions or bans on nine waste streams including paper and card, textiles, metals, wood, food, glass and plastics.
Waste electrical and electronic equipment and garden waste are also included in the options.
The consultation was published jointly by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Welsh Assembly Government and is entitled Consultation on the introduction of restrictions on the landfilling of certain wastes(18 March).
Environment Secretary Hilary Benn launched the consultation at the Bywaters materials recovery facility in Bow, east London, where a mixture of commingled and separate material is processed.
Speaking to MRW, Benn said a potential landfill ban on certain materials could stimulate development for anaerobic digestion plants and MRFs. He said: Our job is to set the right framework in Government, to provide the right incentives and if you cant dispose of stuff over here youre going to have to dispose of them in another way. Thats going to generate a market for facilities like this [Bywaters] and we will invest in providing more of them and its just getting those two things in balance.
Benn also said that any obligation to sort waste would fall primarily on the waste collection authority and on businesses, and not the individual householder.
He said that he hoped the consultation will stimulate debate and discussion.
The options for introducing new policy measures in the consultation include: do nothing, introduce landfill bans either on their own or accompanied by a requirement for waste to be sorted, introduce a sorting or tougher pre-treatment requirement without a landfill ban, and introduce producer responsibility requirements linked to recycling targets.
The consultation states that the restrictions are expected to stimulate the development of alternative waste infrastructure, boosting separate collections of waste and increasing the recycling and recovery of waste.
Research into the practicalities of landfill bans were published alongside the publication and were carried out by environmental consultants Eunomia. The research involved a cost and benefit analysis and found that the types of waste which offered the greatest opportunities to reduce greenhouse gases and increase resource efficiency were paper/card, food, textiles, metals, wood, green waste and glass. It concluded that the benefits were likely to be greater where landfill bans are accompanied by a requirement to sort wastes.
It also found that significant net benefits to society could be found from a landfill ban on paper/card. The net cost of benefit to society was considered to be the sum of the financial costs (including the collecting and sorting of waste, regulating the bans and communications about the bans).For instance, the central estimate for the period 2009-2024 was a net benefit of £253 million for a ban of paper/card on its own and £1,817m where a ban is accompanied by a requirement to sort. In contrast, the estimate for food was £48m for a ban on its own and £179m where a ban is accompanied by a requirement to sort.
For glass, there was found to be little benefit from a landfill ban since glass is already assumed to be recycled at high levels.
Criticising the consultation, Shadow Environment Secretary Nick Herbert said: Under Defras current plans, a quarter of municipal waste will be sent to landfill sites in ten years time. This is not a zero waste policy this is a zero ambition policy. Defra has been criticised for being too slow in bringing forward greener alternatives to landfill, such as reprocessing plants.
We want to drive change faster and to see more waste being reused and recycled as quickly as possible, but bans should not be imposed without providing businesses and councils long enough lead-in times to plan for greener forms of waste disposal. We need to divert waste from landfill and more food waste should be used to generate energy, but the way to achieve that is to encourage households by rewarding them to recycle.
Local Government Association chairman Gary Porter added: People have already done an excellent job cutting the amount of rubbish we throw in the ground. Working with their council, people have doubled recycling rates in the last five years. As a nation, we need to recycle even more but councils are already working with residents to find ways of doing this and seven out of ten people are happy with their recycling collection.
The deadline for the consultation closes on June 10 2010.