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We already know wood is not for landfill

Here’s the good news. The Government will be consulting on banning waste wood from landfill next month. (There was a largely favourable consultation before the last election, but we’ll let that one pass…)

It’s good that there is to be another one shortly hopefully followed by action. In the Waste Review last year the Government said that the aim of a ban would be ‘diverting the still substantial tonnages that end up in landfill to better uses up the waste hierarchy and delivering clear environmental benefits’. Right on both counts. About eight million tonnes of waste wood, mostly from construction, arises each year, and 80% of it goes into landfill. Energy is only recovered from about 4% of it.

Shaping how alternatives to landfill works involves taxes, sometimes, and sometimes bans. It is not a terrible thing

Not only would the diversion of waste wood greatly enhance possible energy recovery, when we are projected to be importing up to 24 million tonnes of wood each year by 2020 to fuel planned biomass energy plants, but we will save, it is estimated, 1400kg  of CO2 per tonne of wood if it is used for energy rather than left in landfill as a potent greenhouse gas source for many years to come.  

It really is, as they say, a ‘no brainer’.  So what is the bad news? Well, it seems that Lord Taylor may be pre-empting the consultation with his remarks that ‘bans always sound a little hard-edged’. I hope he doesn’t mean that.

Previous bans of items into landfill have worked well: maybe if we thought bans were indeed ‘hard-edged’, we’d still be merrily stuffing car tyres into landfill – but we aren’t because they were banned, and much better ways of dealing with them have followed, without much fuss being made. Shaping how alternatives to landfill works involves taxes, sometimes, and sometimes bans. It is not a terrible thing.

By all means consult on the details: but as for the principle, minister – just do it!

Alan Whitehead, Labour MP for Southampton, co-chair of the Associate Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group.


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