UK dustbin of Europe – LGA slams landfill habit

The UK dumps more of its household rubbish in landfill sites than any other European country and is set to miss recycling targets unless more is done to re-write the way we manage waste.

This was the bleak verdict of the Local Government Association, which this week dubbed the country the dustbin of Europe.

Launching its new campaign to raise awareness about the urgent need to switch to more environmentally acceptable methods of tackling our waste, the LGA announced that Britain was landfilling over 27 million tonnes of municipal waste per year, seven million tonnes clear of Italy, the second worst offender.

While the LGA analysis largely ignores population – a key factor in the amount of waste produced and therefore landfill levels – and simply ranks countries by total tonnage, it does highlight the performance of Germany, with its population 25% higher than that of the UK but landfilling less than half the amount of waste.

Over coming months, the association’s War on Waste campaign will urge the public, businesses, central government and member councils to radically revise their habits and stress that all have a vital role to play to protect the environment, stop climate change and cut the amount of rubbish that is produced and thrown away.

Cllr Paul Bettison, chairman of the LGA’s environment board, said: “For decades people have been used to being able to throw their rubbish away without worrying about the consequences. Those days are now over.

“Unless the ways of people and business change then it is estimated we will run out of landfill space in less than nine years time. Reducing waste will also help cut carbon emissions that contribute to climate change.

“Central government should give councils save-as-you-throw powers to help encourage people to take more responsibility for the way they throw their rubbish away.

“If save-as-you-throw were introduced it would mean a reduction in council tax and a separate charge for waste collection. It would also require a change in the law.

“Councils want a power, not a duty, so authorities can decide what’s best for their local areas. It’s not about paying more it’s about paying in a different way. It’s also fairer because if you throw out less you pay less.”

Cllr Bettison said industry must shoulder its share of responsibility when it came to fighting the War on Waste.

“Councils are on the frontline in the fight against climate change and are working hard to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill,” he said.

“But ultimately we must make sure less waste is produced in the first place.

“Manufacturers must be made to pay towards the cost of getting rid of single use items like nappies, batteries and throw-away cameras. The only way to dispose of these products is to send them to landfill. They can’t be recycled.

“It is time manufacturers were made to take full responsibility for the life cycle of their products. It is totally unacceptable that the council tax payer is picking up the bill for business. The government should ensure that it is the polluter, and not people, that pay.”

Sam Bond

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