Law firm Norton Rose conducted the survey, quizzing key decision makers in waste management companies, local authorities, waste consultants and financiers.

The results showed that 73% of those asked had serious doubts about the UK’s ability to meet its targets and 75% thought private finance would be required if they were to be met.

While Norton Rose use the survey, and data collected from elsewhere, to back the case for PFI agreements in a document The Future of Waste PFI, the results are telling even when they stand alone.

The EU Landfill Directive requires the UK to slash the amount of waste it sends to landfill and the total must be no more than 75% of 1995 volumes by 2010, reducing to 50% in 2013 and 35% 2016.

The UK is historically among the worst offenders in Europe in terms of relying on landfill, but other obvious options to make a fast dent in current levels, such as incineration, have so far proved unpopular with the public.

Options further up the waste hierarchy, such as reduction and recycling, are likely to take longer to implement as they require a cultural shift as well as a cash fix.

But according to the survey the there is interest and sufficient investment available from banks, with 83% of respondents agreeing that money is there to back an effective programme.

Jonathan Brufal, a senior associate at Norton Rose said: “If the EU targets are to be met, the UK must re-use, recycle and recover more of the waste it currently sends to landfill, and PFI offers a viable strategy for achieving this.

“Our research reveals a consensus in the sector that private finance is both necessary and available, if certain obstacles are overcome.”

A number of waste management authorities have already opted for PFI agreements (see related story) though it is perhaps too early to judge their success.

The Norton Rose research found that a quarter of waste management experts believe planning has been the most significant barrier to new schemes.

Mr Brufal added: “The waste sector is signalling to government that clearer guidance needs to be offered to local authorities as to the type of waste projects it would like to see delivered.

“This will increase confidence in the sector and ensure a stable environment for new waste management schemes.”

by Sam Bond

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