Anglo-Welsh waste strategy released

Government bids to boost recycling with local targets, market development, tradable permits

Legally binding targets on local authorities on waste recycling and a push to increase markets for recycled products form the central thrust of a waste strategy for England and Wales released by the government today. The government also confirmed that a system of tradable permits is to be introduced restricting the amount of biodegradable waste that local authorities can send to landfill (ENDS Daily 6 October 1999) and promised more producer responsibility for certain products.

Two years in the making, the Anglo-Welsh strategy has been a source of fierce arguments as environmental groups seek to avoid a massive programme of building new waste incineration plants. Today's strategy maintains that waste to energy has "an important role to play," but seeks to appease its critics by promising that new incinerators "will be designed not to compete with recycling schemes".

The UK has one of Europe's worst records for waste recycling. It is under pressure to improve its performance from a requirement in the EU landfill directive that landfilling of biodegradable waste should be reduced to 35% of 1995 levels by 2020. Underlining the scale of the challenge, the strategy notes that if the current 3% annual increase in household waste continues, then nearly twice as many new waste management facilities will be needed by 2020 as if the amount stays constant.

Targets for increasing recycling are broadly in line with a draft of the strategy released last year (ENDS Daily 1 July 1999). Recycling of household waste should be raised from its current 9% to 25% by 2005, 30% by 2010 and 33% by 2015. Targets for waste recovery - which includes incineration - are 40% by 2005, 45% by 2010 and 67% by 2015. For industrial and commercial waste, about one-third of which is currently recycled, the target is to reduce landfilling to 85% of 1998 levels by 2005.

New standards to be imposed on local authorities include a requirement that waste disposal authorities recycling under 5% of household waste in 1998/99 should achieve 10% by 2003; those that recycled 5-15% should double their recycling rate, and others should recycle at least one-third of waste by the target date. All the recycling rates include composting.

The strategy also includes a range of measures designed to increase the commercial viability of recycling. It promises to follow the example set by the US government in setting tougher public procurement rules demanding the highest practicable recycled content. It proposes more work to develop markets for recycled products. And it commits to developing producer responsibility for junk mail.

Follow Up:
UK environment ministry, tel: +44 20 79 44 30 00, and the full text of the waste strategy. See also a new website aimed at the public: Useitagain.

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