Landfill almost full in South East as waste crisis looms

The data published by the Environment Agency shows that in England and Wales recycling rates are increasing while the amount of waste sent to landfill has dropped - but parts of the UK will run out of landfill space within the next three years.

The latest figures are for the financial year of 2004/05 and show municipal recycling at 23.5% – or 27.1% in England alone – while rates for industrial waste was 44%.

Recovery and re-use were also up, with inputs at material recovery and composting sites tripling since 2001.

Numerous hazardous waste sites have been closed in an effort to make management of hazardous substances more centralised and there are now only twelve commercial land fill sites and 50 private sites are licensed, concentrated in a central belt between Lancashire and Northamptonshire.

Overall production of hazardous waste has been falling gradually since 2001 but this trend was interrupted by an increase of 50% in hazardous construction and demolition waste to landfill in 2004, a blip attributed by the EA to contaminated land clearance schemes were brought forward to beat restrictions imposed by the Landfill Directive.

Barbara Young, chief executive of the Environment Agency, said: “The good news is we are recycling more and have sent nine per cent less waste to landfill in England and Wales since 2001.

“However, the report also highlights that we need to improve our reuse and recycling of waste and ideally, not produce it in the first place.

“Landfill should be the last resort for waste that we can’t recover or recycle, as it is not sustainable to keep sending it to landfill. The data give a clear indication of which regions have the greatest challenges.

“For example if we continue to landfill at current rates, existing landfill capacity in Wales, East Anglia and London could be full by the end of the decade. The space available to fill with waste has fallen by more than 30% in some areas since 1998/9.

“These figures are projections and do not necessarily mean that we will physically run out of landfill space, because new sites may open. This report will be helpful to local authorities who are responsible for handling and managing municipal waste.”

Sam Bond

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