Trend suggests we're winning war on waste, Minister claims
Figures showing a 3% fall in the waste produced by households last year, and a 10% fall in the amount being sent to landfill, have been welcomed by the Government as a sign that the tide of rising waste might be on the turn.Historically, the total amount of waste has tended to rise even though recycling rates are improving.
But speaking at the annual conference of the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee in Bournemouth, waste Minister Ben Bradshaw said the drop was the biggest on record and hoped it was a sign of things to come.
"Reducing waste and increasing recycling is a vital part of our battle against dangerous climate change. The figures out today that show us breaking the link between economic growth and waste growth and represents a tremendous achievement by individuals and local authorities," he said.
"People can no longer doubt that our collective efforts to improve our waste record are beginning to have an impact.
"A recycling rate of 27% is a major achievement and easily exceeds the Government's target of 25%. That means we have almost quadrupled the level of recycling since 1997.
"Some of our local authorities have recycling rates comparable to best practice on the continent.
"Not only have we exceeded our recycling targets but waste disposal authorities also met their limits for the first year of the Landfill Allowances Trading Scheme (LATS).
"LATS is one of our most important levers for reducing the amount of biodegradable municipal waste going to landfill. It is already having a noticeable impact. The Environment Agency announced today that English councils landfilled 12.4 million tonnes of biodegradable municipal waste in 2005/06. That's an estimated reduction of 1.5 million tonnes in the space of a year.
"The more successful our use of LATS, the better our chances of meeting our 2010 Landfill Directive target of 11.2m tonnes. It's a target we need to meet or we'll face fines that ultimately hit the British taxpayer."
The Minister used his speech to outline some of the Government initiatives to support local authorities' waste management, such as PFI funding and demonstrating state of the art technologies.
"The waste implementation programme is encouraging the use and development of new technologies. The new Waste Infrastructure Development Programme is aimed to help encourage the £10bn worth of new infrastructure we are going to need to meet the landfill targets," he said.
"The criteria for Private Finance Initiative have been simplified and preference given to sustainable technologies. Twenty authorities have already benefited from £900m of PFI funding since 1997.
"We have also given £3.5 million of consultancy support to 300 authorities.
"Our £30 million New Technologies Demonstration programme will show local authorities and the waste sector some cutting edge technologies in action. We've just completed contracts with eight business partners to provide demo plants that showcase the latest technologies. We expect all eight plants to be up and running by March 2008.
"Sustainable waste management is not some peripheral activity but central to our environmental vision. Central and local government can no longer afford to treat it as a Cinderella service but as something central to their environmental delivery. "