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More Effort Needed to ‘Reduce, Reuse and Recycle’ says UK Environment Agency

The Environment Agency yesterday (Thursday, 11 January 2007) called on the nation to reduce, reuse and recycle as much of our waste as possible.

The call comes as the Environment Agency publishes the latest figures on what happens to our waste in England and Wales.

Barbara Young, Chief Executive of the Environment Agency, said: “The good news is we are recycling more and have sent nine per cent less waste to landfill in England and Wales since 2001. However, the report also highlights that we need to improve our reuse and recycling of waste and ideally, not produce it in the first place.

“Landfill should be the last resort for waste that we can’t recover or recycle, as it is not sustainable to keep sending it to landfill. The data give a clear indication of which regions have the greatest challenges. For example if we continue to landfill at current rates, existing landfill capacity in Wales, East Anglia and London could be full by the end of the decade. The space available to fill with waste has fallen by more than 30% in some areas since 1998/9.

‘These figures are projections and do not necessarily mean that we will physically run out of landfill space, because new sites may open. This report will be helpful to local authorities who are responsible for handling and managing municipal waste.’

‘There are examples of where both businesses and consumers can reduce, reuse and recycle more.’

‘Take Christmas as an example – on average this Christmas we will have used an extra 750 million bottles and glass containers, and 500 million drinks cans, yet we don’t end up recycling more of them.’

‘This is an example where both business and consumers need to look to reduce, reuse and recycle more. By making small changes, we can work towards reducing our dependence on landfills as we are still burying too much of our rubbish.’

The data for the year 2004/5 shows:

  • We are recycling at an increasing rate – 23.5% for municipal waste (rising in England to 27.1% in 2005/6 according to Defra) and 44% for industrial waste;
  • We are recovering and re-using more waste – waste inputs at material recovery and composting sites have tripled since 2001 to 5.3m tonnes;
  • There are fewer hazardous waste disposal sites – only twelve commercial land fill sites and 50 private sites are licensed, concentrated in a central belt between Lancashire and Northamptonshire.
  • No sites exist in Wales and only one in the South West of England;
  • Overall production of hazardous waste has been falling gradually since 2001. This trend was interrupted by an increase of 50% in hazardous construction and demolition waste to landfill in 2004 (up by more than half a million tonnes), as contaminated land clearance schemes were brought forward to beat restrictions imposed by the Landfill Directive;
  • 200,000 premises registered as producers of hazardous waste and 1,000 companies were involved in its transport, treatment of disposal;
  • Out of 1,000 licensed landfill sites operational last year, only 350 were accepting municipal waste.
  • The report also highlights that landfilling is set to become more expensive as we move our waste greater distances which in turn means more harmful emissions into the air. By reducing waste sent to landfill, we can reduce the impact waste management has on our environment.

Barbara Young added: “Defra’s Waste Strategy is currently under review and we hope it will reinforce the need to produce less waste and recover, glass, paper and other raw materials in greater quantities as we apply new methods to deal with our waste. This will present new business opportunities as new markets develop for the raw materials previously disposed of as waste.” More …

The Waster’s comment: Barbara, I do suspect that most of the nation are harbouring tons of bottles which they have not yet recycled due to confusion over collection dates – or will have given up trying to work out when to put them out - some time last week! To work out when the fortnightly recycling days for the various recyclables would fall certainly defeated the Waster. Besides he hardly rose early enough during the aftermath of the festivites, to even put his mixed waste wheely out on the drive before the collection.

The next problem is how to lift the recycled box full of bottles, and another for newspapers, now that they are so full, without incurring a major back injury. Do our collection authorities really risk assess this aspect?

The Waster is trying to prompt some controversy here. Just visit the blog and post us your comments!

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