UK waste plan attacked over incineration

Waste firm criticises "over-reliance on incineration," calls for stronger focus on recycling, minimisation

The UK government's proposed waste strategy for England and Wales could "swamp hopes of improved recycling, re-use and waste minimisation," a leading national waste management firm claimed yesterday. Biffa said indications that up to 165 new municipal waste incinerators might have to be built demonstrated an "over-reliance" on incineration. It would also reinforce dependence on non-renewable materials and stifle technology development, the company said.

Biffa's intervention echoes a renewed attack on greater waste incineration launched last month by pressure group Friends of the Earth (FoE). FoE published predictions of where it thought dozens of new incinerators might be built, claiming this would be "bad news for scores of communities".

The government is expected to issue a new national waste plan following publication of a draft waste strategy last summer (ENDS Daily 1 July 1999). Fundamentally aimed at meeting forthcoming targets for municipal waste under the new EU landfill directive, this proposed raising national targets for recycling but also foresaw a need for a dramatic increase in incineration capacity.

According to Biffa, the government should put more emphasis on waste minimisation and material recovery. "Currently there is an inadequate emphasis on supply chain reform, producer responsibility and product design to help waste recovery," it said. "There is also a failure to tackle consumer behaviour which should require households to participate in recycling schemes."

Biffa is the UK's fourth largest waste management firm. It does not own any waste incinerators. Only 14% of English and Welsh municipal waste is currently recovered and 8% recycled.

* In a related development, the British Newsprint Manufacturers' Association (BNMA) claimed today that recycling old newspapers was cheaper and environmentally preferable to incineration. According to an independent life-cycle assessment commissioned by the BNMA, in the UK context, recycling also generates more jobs than incineration and helps to displace newsprint imports.

Follow Up:
Biffa, tel: +44 20 85 40 50 45 and its report "A Question of Balance"; Friends of the Earth, tel: +44 20 74 90 15 55 and press release. See also the England & Wales Draft waste strategy. On UK newsprint recycling, see the Paper Federation, tel: +44 1793 889 600, and its web site on recycling, PaperChain.

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