Residual rubbish could be halved report says

The amount of waste ending up in landfill, treatment plants or incinerators could be dramatically reduced, a new report has claimed.

Research published by Friends of the Earth analysing rubbish that is not reused, recycled or composted in the UK suggested that if waste was separated more efficiently before collection, residual waste could be more than halved.

The campaign group has also called for the Government to improve the data it collects on waste to allow better decisions to be made about how to tackle the growing mountains of rubbish.

The Government’s waste strategy, launched in May, aims to reduce residual waste by 29% by 2010 and 45% by 2020.

The research, carried out by the EnviroCentre consultancy, estimated that the amount of residual waste normally produced is about 750,000 tonnes per week, while the amount that would be produced if all reusable, recyclable and compostable material was taken out of normal waste was an estimated 298,000 tonnes.

Dr Michael Warhurst, senior waste and resources campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “This research shows us both the challenge and the opportunity that we have ahead of us in taking the long-term direction of phasing out residual waste.

“It is clear that this is the right policy direction, both to minimise our climate impacts and to maximise our resource efficiency.”

Dr Cathy Maguire, principal researcher with EnviroCentre, said: “We are recommending that the Government improves its data gathering in this area, as we found that the data available is poor and does not currently provide a robust basis for decision making and policy development.”

The research also showed that if recycling and composting rates were very high, material such as tissues and wallpaper, construction and demolition waste, furniture, disposable nappies, and mixed bagged waste would form the bulk of residual waste.

A second phase of research will now examine what policy measures could be taken to allow more residual waste to be reused, recycled or composted.

Kate Martin

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