Waste in 2002: Not a good year for fridges

2002 was a bad year for fridge disposal, with the dire predictions of fridge mountains coming true, although it appeared that the country could be getting to grips with recycling used computer equipment. The Landfill Tax and the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme also came in for much criticism.

New European regulations on the disposal of waste fridges came into effect on 1 January. The UK had somehow got left behind, costing millions of pounds, and resulting in the growth of fridge mountains across the country and embarrassment for the Government.

However, there was hope for salvation from the fridge problem in February, as it was revealed that four state-of-the-art refrigerator recycling plants would begin operation in June and July. The Scottish public gave a green light to composting and recycling, and a government waste group announced that it planned to double the recycling of plastic bottles by 2005.

March saw the Government’s embarrassment over fridges continuing, with environment ministers facing a grilling in the House of Commons. The Environment Agency published its plans for helping farmers achieve the forthcoming European regulations on waste management and called for better management of waste tyres . The light at the end of the tunnel came in the form of a prediction from the Department of the Environment that UK businesses will recover 59% of their packaging waste

Reusable nappies and computer recycling were both being promoted in April, with Real Nappy Week , and the presentation of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise to a company that processes 30,000 units of second-hand computer equipment every month . A London recycling group announced that the city would become a recycling capital. However, the Environment Industries Commission calling for reform of the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme so that it encourages sustainable waste management – as it was initially intended to do . Later on in the year, in August, the Government concurred, admitting that the Landfill Tax was having little impact on recycling rates.

In May, Environment Minister Michael Meacher declared that he was in favour of a tax on plastic carrier bags, and a survey by the Environment Agency found that the general public would support waste charges. Despite the positive packaging waste prediction in March, the UK just failed to meet its 2001 packaging recovery target of 50%, recovering only 48%. A Northern Ireland local authority found that a good solution for waste management was to export it to Scotland.

In June, a waste management company announced that it had developed a machine for sorting household waste, and the Environment Agency expressed concern about the waste tyre mountains that were growing across the country. The Government promised that there would be no repeat of the fridge fiasco with regard to forthcoming legislation from Europe on waste electrical goods and end of life vehicles, and Northern Ireland decided to cut back its shipments of waste to Scotland.

In July, the European directive on hazardous waste came into effect, a man was imprisoned for six months for illegal storage of waste , and what was claimed to be the country’s first biogas plant came on line. The Government raised the general public’s hackles by announcing that it might charge householders for their waste , but then failed to mention it in the Strategy Unit’s report published in November .

August saw impressionist Alistair McGowan helping to pick up litter off the beaches, launching a litter survey, and the Shell Better Britain Campaign celebrated its ‘quiet revolution’ of community groups solving their waste management problems sustainably as part of Local Agenda 21. Researchers at the University of London worked out how to turn waste into building blocks .

Marketing of recycled white goods could be worth £235 billion, it was revealed in September , although fridges were still causing problems, with the Environment Agency taking action on a fridge storage company. A new recycling scheme for mobile telephones was launched , and the Co-op supermarket chain launched its biodegradable plastic carrier bag.

In October, a study sponsored by a number of waste management companies revealed that the Government may have to double or triple the Landfill Tax. The Government’s Urban Taskforce stated that contaminated land legislation needs a major overhaul if the UK is not to miss its own targets of building 60% of new homes on brownfield sites.

In November, the Environment Agency was disappointed over lenient rulings on illegal waste dumping . However, there was plenty of good news, as the Government moved to improve confidence in composted organic waste, South Bedfordshire District Council had its first amnesty for waste computer equipment , and Westminster City Council announced that it would be using recycled glass to resurface roads .

At the end of the year, Santa went green in order to encourage recycling, and the Government gave £76 million to encourage local authority recycling schemes. The Environment Agency warned that England and Wales need a step change to get away from using landfill for hazardous waste . And finally, at the end of a dismal year for waste fridges, the Scottish Executive gave local authorities £3.3 million to tackle the problem.

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