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UK will fail to meet EU landfill targets, new survey suggests - UPDATE

More than half the UK waste sector believes that the UK will not meet its European Union Landfill Directive 2013 target, a new survey suggests.

Law firm Norton Rose published the results of its 2009 Future of Waste PFI survey, three years since the firm conducted its inaugural survey in the UK.

It interviewed 60 stakeholders (comprised of waste management companies, technical advisers, local authorities, banks and financial advisers) within the UK waste sector. It found that 56 per cent of respondents think the UK will meet its landfill targets in 2010 but 69 per cent do not think the UK will meet its 2013 targets.

Norton Rose LLP partner Mark Berry said if the UK does not meet its 2010 target it could be fined around £180m and if the 2013 and 2020 targets are not met then the estimated fine could rise to £500m.

He added: There is a clear consensus from the industry and the National Audit Office that the 2013 targets will be missed. This is a poor reflection on the UKs approach to procurement of waste management solutions.

Many councils turned to waste private finance initiatives to try to find solutions to try to meet their landfill targets.

In 2006, 25 per cent of respondents cited planning as the main block to projects, while in the most recent survey more than 70 per cent cite planning as the main barrier.

The report highlights how many see private merchant waste schemes as being part of the solution.

More than 42 per cent of respondents highlighted incineration as the most viable technology, followed by 24.4 per cent for separation processes, 21.2 per cent for mechanical biological treatment, 7.7 per cent for pyrolsis and 32 per cent for a combination of the above.

Speaking about the future of waste PFI, Bank of Ireland director David Shepherdson told MRW:
We believe that the next five years will be exciting for us. There is going to be a pipeline of projects that will keep us busy for a long time.

On the issue of viable technologies, Shepherdson questioned: I just wonder if perhaps we have been a little bit too ready to accept incineration and too unready to accept MBT? And should we be a bit more wider thinking on our approach going forward?

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Amar Qureshi spokesman joked: I think the unofficial line is that we will meet the 2013 target but we do not know when.

He said that the 2013 target will be challenging and acknowledged that waste levels were decreasing. He also said that Defra was working hard to ensure that the planning issues were addressed.

A Defra spokeswoman added: We are on track to meeting the 2010 target, however, we recognise that the 2013 and 2020 targets remain challenging and local authorities need to continue their good work to date. The Government is providing £3.2bn in PFI funding to support the building of waste management infrastructure to enable the country as a whole to meet these targets.

Other issues from the report include:

  • Standardisation of waste PFI contracts is moving forward and there is an expectation that the Waste Infrastructure Development Programme draft consultation document will help progress this issue;
  • A total of 97 per cent think that the private sector has an important role to play in enabling the UK to meet EU landfill targets compared with 74.6 per cent in 2006; and
  • A total of 54.2 per cent think there is not a viable long term and sustainable market for waste by-products (i.e. refuse-derived fuel or solid recovered fuel).

UK Landfill Directive targets include:

By 2010 to 75% of that produced in 1995

By 2013 to 50% of that produced in 1995

By 2020 to 35% of that produced in 1995

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