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UK Government meets landfill targets but remains reticent on bans

The current Government is “not minded” to introduce landfill bans on certain waste streams in England according to its responses to two landfill consultations.

 This follows new figures being released by the Environment Agency showing England has beaten its target to reduce biodegradable municipal waste to landfill to 21.7 million tonnes by 2010, with 14.6 million tonnes sent to landfill in the calendar year 2009.

However, in its response to a consultation on landfill bans opened in March this year by the Labour Government, the coalition Government explained: “The Government is not minded to introduce landfill bans in England at the present time, but will reach a view on the best way to achieve zero waste to landfill as part of the Waste Policy Review announced by the Secretary of State earlier this year.”

The two consultations asked stakeholders for responses on landfill bans on certain waste streams such as green waste, plastics, wood and glass, as well as policies which would help to divert future waste from landfill. 

According to the consultation document on landfill bans, stakeholder support for bans was mixed, with 42 of the 138 respondents supporting a ban on all or most of the streams, 17 who supported bans on single waste streams from their own areas of expertise, 34 who disagreed with a ban and 13 who did not respond either way.

Many respondents highlighted the lack of sufficient infrastructure to reprocess waste streams diverted from landfill, issues of enforcement of such bans and the concern that the recyclate market would be “flooded” with material, thus affecting prices.

Those who did not support bans pointed towards the landfill tax elevator, which has been protected until 2014 in the 2010 budget, as an effective deterrent from landfill. 52 respondents favoured producer responsibility deals and another 51 favoured other measures to divert waste from landfill, such as statutory responsibility for commercial and industrial waste collections for local authorities and differential levels of landfill tax.

Stakeholders also offered a mixed reaction to the Landfill Allowance Trading Schemes (LATS) in the consultation on meeting landfill diversion targets, with 45 of 66 respondents commenting that the landfill tax had superseded LATS as a disincentive from landfilling.

According to the consultation, “there was a general view that, while successful, LATS had failed as a market mechanism.  19 respondents said that it was a barrier to local authorities collecting commercial waste.”

In its response, the Government said: “It is clear that there is a range of views about the future of LATS, with a number of respondents considering that LATS should be abandoned immediately, others wanting this to happen after the 2013 target year, and others wanting LATS to be retained until 2020.  We understand some local authorities’ concern that ending the scheme could undermine their ongoing procurement processes for necessary infrastructure.  We also acknowledge comments about the benefits of focusing further up the waste hierarchy, and the need for sufficient capacity to deal with waste diverted from landfill.”

Recycling minister Lord Henley said: “It is pleasing to see that from the latest data the UK will meet the 2010 Landfill Directive target as it shows that people are beginning to realise that we can’t continue sending huge amounts of waste to landfill. As this Government strives to be the greenest Government ever it will be important that this trend continues as we look to meet future targets.”

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