Waste chiefs warn of infrastructure 'crisis' as landfill targets loom closer
Local authority waste chiefs have called for an urgent review of national waste data amid fears that the UK is ill-prepared to meet forthcoming Landfill Directive targets.
The Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport (ADEPT) has sent a letter to Defra Environment Secretary Owen Paterson warning that the Government could be using out of date statistics to make key waste policy and investment decisions.
This, it argues, could leave the country unable to avoid potentially crippling landfill fines in the future. ADEPT is calling for the Government to conduct an urgent review of emerging waste trends to help address the problem.
According to ADEPT president, Steve Kent, who is also strategic advisor at Cheshire West & Chester Council, current data shows that more waste is being collected by local authorities across the country, with a flattening in recycling rates and rising residual levels.
"Those factors, combined with a gap in the amount of waste treatment capacity coming on stream in the next few years should be ringing alarm bells in Whitehall, that the UK's strategy to stop waste being sent to landfill might be in danger," he said.
"In our view, the Government is relying on trends in household waste that have been recorded during the most difficult economic conditions since the war.
"But there is now growing evidence that those trends are simply a medium term adjustment and that as the country starts to return to growth and as our population continues to increase, the UK will s be ill prepared to manage its waste properly.
ADEPT's concerns come just a month after the organisation wrote to Defra expressing its fears that the department's decision to withdraw waste infrastructure credits from three residual waste projects that had featured in the National Infrastructure Plan would damage investor confidence.
The most recent letter goes further and says that this decision was also short-sighted in relation to the UK's waste policy objectives.
"Of the remaining 29 waste infrastructure projects supported by Defra there are risks associated with delivery of the 16 plants that are not yet fully operational," Kent pointed out.
"Even if this capacity is delivered there should be plans for additional facilities to achieve further, more challenging targets beyond 2020, bearing in mind the EU review of the Waste Framework Directive and the vision set out in the Government Waste Policy Review."
The letter also points to an underlying reduction in recycling rates and says there are dangers in assuming that recycling is set to continue to increase at the rates experienced in recent years.
"The latest statistics cast doubt on whether a 50% recycling and composting rate is achievable across all local authorities in England when the reduction in funding available to local authorities may lead to waste reuse, reduction and recycling schemes being delayed or cancelled," Kent added.