Industry backs waste recovery solutions against incinerators

A new report from waste management company Biffa makes a strong case for waste recovery options over the potential benefits of incineration, while a newsprint industry study also comes out in favour of recycling used newspapers rather than going for the energy alternative.

In a detailed analysis of waste management options in the UK, Biffa Waste Services proposes an alternative to the national waste strategy. According to the waste management company in its new report, A Question of Balance, the country should rely on waste recovery, not large-scale incineration.

The report says that businesses should not be burdened with waste taxes and recycling targets without similar obligations being applied to domestic waste. Currently, the UK recycles only 8% of the 27 million tonnes of household waste produced every year, recycling only a quarter a much as other European countries. By contrast, Biffa cites commercial recycling as a growing success story. The waste management company also urges the Government to consider an emphasis on waste minimisation and recovery backed by limited landfill, energy from waste plants and recycling, along with greatly improved data management.

Call for major change
"There must be a major change in our approach to waste and how we deal with it if we are meet to meet the directives set by Europe," says the author of the report, Peter Jones, Biffa's Development Director. "We must encourage more re-use of materials and such initiatives must be lead by a co-ordinated Government policy aimed at both business and households."

Mr Jones continued: "Currently there is an inadequate emphasis on supply chain reform, producer responsibility and product design to help waste recovery. There is also a failure to tackle consumer behaviour which should require households to participate in recycling schemes."

He added: "We welcome Government commitment to sustainable waste management and urge action to make manufacturers responsible for product disposal. This should be backed by offering tax breaks to help fund retrieval and recycling costs, thus making recycled materials competitive with virgin products. We see absolutely no reason why Landfill Tax and other eco-tax revenue could not be used to pay for greener product designs and manufacturing processes."

Dealing with the key question of markets for recycled materials, the report says that UK markets for recycled materials remain very sluggish and small, mainly because of the discouragingly high costs and risks which reprocessors face. If we are to meet our national recycling targets, such markets will have to be developed substantially, the company considers.

The report says: "Taxing businesses and forcing them to recycle more of their product materials will help. But this alone will not make recycled products mainstream. The public at large will only buy them if they are high quality, attractive and good value, as well as ethically desirable." The full report can be downloaded from the Biffa website at www.biffa.co.uk

Recycling used newspapers
Another new report, produced by independent consultants for the British Newsprint Manufacturers' Association (BNMA), gives the results of a study of the environmental, social and economic effects of recycling and incinerating used newspapers in the UK and to determine their ranking for prioritisation.

One case examines placing recycling into the UK newsprint production chain ("UK Newsprint"). The alternative case examines incinerating recycled newspapers to produce energy ("UK Energy").

Dealing with the implications for local and national policy makers, the study has demonstrated that "UK Newsprint" has an overall advantage over the "UK Energy" option, in terms of both the environmental and national economic effects arising from the recovery of used newspapers. This advantage grows when Best Available Technology (BAT) is used in newsprint production.

In the local authority collecting for recycling sector, the report says that the relative advantages of "UK Newsprint" are set to grow as the collection of used newspapers and magazines increases along with the growth in demand. They are already a large part of the domestic waste stream. Local councils will face rising total gate fees if they send this material to incineration plants. It makes sense to recycle and save on gate fees. The Audit Commission urges councils to take such gains into account when debating recycling initiatives.

Commenting on moves to impose a mandatory recycled content for newsprint, the study points out that the average recycled content of newsprint manufactured in the UK is already 92% - approaching the limit of current capacity.

The report says that it follows from this that there are only two routes to increase further the recycled content. These are: improving local recycling infrastructure in order to recover some of the huge quantities of used newspapers and other paper products (a grand total of five million tonnes a year) that currently go to landfill; and encouraging more investment in domestic paper production to recycle this mountain of used paper.


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