Achieving Defra’s aim of a zero waste economy means ending the landfilling of materials like wood, which can be recycled, recovered, or as a last resort, burned. As Green Alliance’s 2009 research, Landfill bans and restrictions in the EU and US showed, there is widespread international consensus that, in combination with effective supporting policies, landfill bans work. In our study, the introduction of a ban reduced landfill by 20% on average.
A landfill ban for wood waste would complement the landfill tax, and would ensure that the maximum value of waste wood is captured. A landfill restriction, set out with five to seven years of forward visibility, would provide a level playing field for businesses.
It would provide certainty to materials re-processors, as legal enforceability would enable a steadier stream of waste feedstock to enter their market. And of course, having similar restrictions on landfilling in England, Scotland and Wales would help to reduce any unintended incentives to transport wood waste unnecessarily.
But in order to be most effective, the landfill ban needs to be complemented by policy to encourage higher quality waste wood to be reused rather than being diverted into incineration.
It’s sensible to not introduce unnecessary regulation, so Defra is right to ensure that the case for a landfill ban is sound (see page . However, the leadership shown by Scotland and Wales, along with the ample international evidence on the economic value that well-designed landfill restrictions create, shows that landfill restrictions are better than business as usual.
Dustin Benton, senior policy adviser at the Green Alliance environmental think tank