Landfill bans unlikely following wood proposals
Concerns are mounting over the Coalition Government's reluctance to introduce landfill bans.
The wording of a consultation document published this week on the possible restriction of wood to landfill suggests that this Government opposes the idea of bans as much as the Labour Government before it.
The stance has led to suggestions that England will be “left behind” and will continue “wasting valuable resources” if it doesn’t look at bans – and not just for wood.
Wood is arguably one of the least complicated materials to ban from landfill, compared with food or plastics, for example. However, the Government argues in its consultation that landfill tax and subsidies for renewable energy generation will be enough to drive wood away from landfill.
The document reads: “Government’s collective approach is to ensure that regulation is only used as the last resort and we would therefore welcome views on other measures such as improved collection and sorting infrastructure, producer responsibility schemes and increasing re-use of wood waste. In addition we are interested in the ‘do nothing’ option, given the direction of travel.”
Others disagree. Dustin Benton, waste expert at Green Alliance, said that while it’s sensible to not introduce unnecessary regulation, “the leadership shown by Scotland and Wales, along with the ample international evidence on the economic value that well-designed landfill restrictions create, shows that landfill restrictions are better than business as usual”.
The most successful countries in terms of recycling are those that have introduced landfill bans. Scotland recently joined other European countries with plans to introduce landfill bans on a range of materials, including source-segregated food, glass and plastic.
While the concept of a landfill ban is straightforward, it is complex in practice. However, ruling out bans and relying on rising landfill taxes and renewables incentives will not be enough, experts told edie.
Fiona McDermott, bioenergy consultant at NNFCC, said: “Continuing to send wood waste to landfill represents a missed opportunity and we urge the Government to consider banning wood waste going to landfill. A ban would help divert this valuable resource to sectors where it can make a real difference to our low carbon ambitions, such as bioenergy.”
This also extends to other materials, such as food. The anaerobic digestion (AD) industry has long lobbied for a landfill ban for food waste, insisting that it will drive investment in the technology and help towards renewable targets. Charlotte Morton, chief executive at the Anaerobic Digestion and Biogas Association expressed her concern over the continued opposition in Whitehall to consider landfill bans.
“There is no way we should still be sending valuable resources such as the nutrients in organic waste to landfill, when phosphorus is running out and artificial fertilisers are contributing a huge amount to greenhouse gas emissions and the cost of food.
“The Scottish Government has set out a sensible timetable for banning biodegradable waste from landfill sites and rolling out source segregated collections which help get the most out of the nutrients in the material by creating quality biofertilisers. The UK government should follow suit, or it will risk being left behind.”