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Waste boss challenges EU official's comments on UK

An executive of a British waste management firm has challenged comments from a senior Brussels official at RWM about commingled collections.

Karl Falkenberg, who until this month was director-general for environment at the European Commission, and played a leading role in the forthcoming circular economy package, described an unwillingness in this country for mandated separate collections as an approach that was “peculiar” to the UK.

He said: “The UK is recycling substantively less than many of the separate collection systems in member states on the continent. The UK is still putting 37% of municipal waste into landfill when others are at zero going down the route of separate collection.”

But Grundon deputy chairman Neil Grundon said the Commission should do more to standardise waste policy across the EU.

In a blog, he wrote: “Environmental taxation, legislation and VAT rules on waste are different across every European country, so it’s simply not a level playing field.

“Even the interpretation of domestic, municipal and commercial waste is different, which means that when Falkenberg talks about separation versus commingling, it is very difficult to know exactly which waste streams he is driving at.”

Waste Management

Grundon (pictured) added that it was simpler for customers to have one commingled dry recyclable collection and for the industry to invest in MRFs to separate the different streams quickly and efficiently.

Falkenberg also said at RWM that energy from waste was an obvious alternative to landfill but acknowledged planning issues in Britain.

“In the UK it seems more difficult to build an incinerator than a nuclear plant. We have to showcase that this technology is safe and has been tested. We should be able to move collectively.”

Grundon agreed, but added that the lack of consistency between EU landfill tax rates has contributed to an over-reliance on refuse-derived fuel (RDF) exports.

“At the moment, companies are able to take advantage of different rates for different materials, so they effectively play one off against the other, with the net result that waste is transported around Europe when it could be used to produce renewable energy for the home market.

“By reducing the potential for waste to be traded in this way, it might also help to persuade our politicians that RDF is a valuable resource that could actually go a long way towards helping secure the UK’s future energy supplies.”

The Commission’s circular economy package is set for release this year.

Readers' comments (1)

  • The export of RDF provides smaller operators with a non-landfill disposal solution. Solely from a competition prospective this vital route must be maintained..

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