UK aims to increase waste recovery, recycling

Draft strategy for England, Wales, targets 45% recovery, 30% recycling, by 2010

The UK government yesterday set new tougher targets for England and Wales for diverting all wastes from landfill and for recovering and recycling significantly more municipal and household wastes. Separate waste plans are being drawn up for Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The draft waste strategy follows a consultation launched last summer (ENDS Daily 9 June 1998). It addresses both general steps needed to make waste generation and management more sustainable in the long term and specific measures needed to implement the new EU landfill directive finalised earlier this year (ENDS Daily 30 April).

In place of existing targets to recover 40% of municipal waste by 2005 and recycle 25% of household waste by 2000, the environment ministry is now aiming to achieve 45% recovery for municipal waste and 30% recycling of household waste by 2010, while meeting both the older targets by 2005. The government "expects," that by 2015, value will "need to be" recovered from two-thirds of household waste, at least half of this through recycling or composting.

In comparison with the targets, only 14% of municipal waste is currently recovered in England and Wales, while only 8% of household wastes are recycled or composted and 6% subjected to energy recovery. For all types of waste, including industrial and construction wastes, 31% is recycled, while 2% is incinerated with energy recovery.

A principal driver for the new targets is the EU landfill directive, which will require member states to reduce landfilling of biodegradable municipal waste to 35% of 1995 levels by 2016. Because the UK currently landfills over 80% of municipal waste, the target will apply in 2020 rather than 2016.

A dramatic growth in waste incineration facilities is foreseen by the government if its new targets are to be met, a conclusion which has drawn fire from environmental groups. According to the draft strategy, up to 33m tonnes of incineration capacity will be needed to meet the final landfill directive requirement to cut landfilling of biodegradable waste. It suggests that up to 130 new waste incinerators might be needed to achieve this. The strategy also estimates a need for up to 200 new materials recovery facilities averaging 50,000 tonnes capacity and up to 300 composting facilities averaging 20,000 capacity.

Follow Up:
UK environment ministry, tel: +44 171 890 3000. References: "A Way With Waste."

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