Initiatives across the UK map out how recycling targets can be hit

Special Correspondent Pat Jennings reviews the current scene in the waste minimisation and recycling sector, where the restructured Government environmental departments remain committed to the goals set out in the Waste Strategy, backed by recent initiatives which should boost the drive to meet national targets for recycling

With Parliament closed for the summer recess, and in the wake of the departmental shifts which have given rise to the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions (DTLR), there has been little development on the recycling and waste minimisation front in the last few weeks.

Reflecting the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Packaging's task force that there needed to be more collection of materials from the household waste stream if the UK was to meet the higher packaging waste recovery targets, Mr Hewitt also said that compliance schemes could play a part in helping councils to increase recycling rates and meet the targets.

Wales sets targets
Last month (July), the Welsh Minister for the Environment, Sue Essex, launched the National Assembly for Wales' draft Waste Strategy for consultation.

Acknowledging that Wales is near the bottom of the European league in waste management, with one of the lowest municipal waste recycling rates in Europe (5%), it is not surprising, therefore, that waste minimisation, segregation of waste at source, and recycling and composting are key strategic policies.

The draft strategy states that local authorities in Wales will need to introduce "comprehensive schemes for the separate kerbside collection of recyclable and compostable materials" and the Assembly has proposed targets to ensure that the recycling and composting rates for municipal waste improve significantly beyond the current average.

The preferred targets are:

  • by 2003/4 to achieve 15% recycling /composting of municipal waste with a minimum of 5% composting (with only compost derived from source segregated materials counting) and 5% recycling
  • by 2006/07 to achieve 25% recycling/composting of municipal waste with a minimum of 10% composting and 10% recycling
  • by 2009/10 to achieve 40% recycling/composting of municipal waste with a minimum of 15% composting and 15% recycling

The Assembly intends to achieve diversion of biodegradable municipal waste from landfill by allocating yearly permits to each local authority, but the decision as to whether these permits will be tradable has not yet been made. Waste minimisation targets have also been proposed across all sectors, including waste arisings per household, biodegradable and non-biodegradable industrial and commercial waste, and hazardous waste.

Prior to the launch of the draft Waste Strategy, Ms Essex announced a three-year, £40 million funding package to assist local authorities to implement the strategy and meet the targets. Grants have been awarded to each of the 22 local authorities in Wales to promote increased recycling and composting and develop more sustainable ways of managing waste.

Ms Essex said: "This three-year indicative funding programme is a first for Wales. It is an example of how the Assembly is working in partnership with local authorities to deliver a cleaner and better future for waste management. "Although we recognise these targets are challenging and exceed those proposed for local authorities in England, they have already been achieved or exceeded by some local authorities across Britain and elsewhere in Europe."

However, while the targets are high, they will not be statutory; instead, local authorities will form "Policy Agreements" with the Assembly. For the first of these agreements, the Assembly is asking local authorities to achieve a combined recycling and composting target of 15% by 2003/4, with at least 5% for each. If it becomes evident sufficient progress is not being made within this framework to ensure that obligations under EU legislation at the all-Wales level are achieved, the Assembly has indicated that it will consider setting statutory Best Value Performance Standard targets.

In order to allow local authorities to plan ahead the Assembly intends to issue firm figures for the first year and indicative figures for the following two years.

Of the total £3 million allocated for 2001-02, local authorities will receive £1,500,000, while the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) will receive £650,000 to promote markets for recycled materials.

For 2002-03 and £2003-04 the Assembly has issued indicative figures of £11.3 million and £22.4 million, respectively, to local authorities.

Municipal waste trends
According to the latest summary results from the DETR's (now DEFRA) Municipal Waste Management Survey for 1999/2000, municipal waste arisings have risen 5% from 27.9 to 29.3 million tonnes, with the average per household rose from 26kg per week, compared to a 1998/9 figure of 25kg.

While there has been a slight increase in the absolute amount of municipal waste going to landfill, the proportion of waste disposed of in this way has dropped by one per cent to 81%. In total, just over 5.5 million tonnes (19%) of municipal waste was subject to recovery (recycling, composting, energy recovery) compared to 17% in 1998/99.

The recycling and recovery rates for England and Wales increased from 8.8% in 1998/99 to 10.3% in 1999/2000, while the total municipal waste recovery rate (recycling, composting and energy recovery) rose from 17.5% to 19.1% over the same period.

WRAP unveils business plan
Following its launch in November of last year, the £40 million Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has produced its Business Plan outlining how it aims to bring about a step-change in the UK's approach to waste management and recycling.
The plan covers the next five years and the objectives include meeting the official Waste Strategy 2000 targets by 2005 and laying the ground for a radical shift in society's attitudes to waste. The new organisation believes British business should be aiming to achieve a 60% recycling rate from a current average rate of around 35%.

Launching the new Business Plan, WRAP chairman Vic Cocker said: "Our programme of activities is going to affect businesses and households throughout the UK. WRAP is merely the catalyst for changes which are inevitable and which are already happening elsewhere in the world.

WRAP's effectiveness will rely upon its ability to help remove the obstacles investment in new reprocessing capacity for materials recovered from the waste stream and to stimulate markets.

Detailed in the Business Plan are ambitious targets across seven programmes. These include:

  • paper - supporting investment that will create new manufacturing capacity to deliver a 500,000 tonne a year increase (50%) in newspaper recycling
  • plastics - securing a 20,000 tonne increase in mixed plastics reprocessing for industrial products
  • doubling wood packaging recovery to 350,000 tonnes a year by the end of 2003/4
  • glass - securing an extra 350,000 tonnes of glass a year from all sources for recycling, including 100,000 tonnes from commercial sources
  • procurement - commitment from at least half of all local authorities to adopt a "buy recycled" policy, tailored to suit their local circumstances by end 2003/4;
  • financial mechanisms - attracting at least another £10 million investment a year in reprocessing capacity with the potential to leverage investment through WRAP's own resources
  • standards and specifications - a programme of standards development and implementation for compost products in 2001/2 completed by the end of 2003/4.



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