Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Waste target (Cornish Guardian article; 30th July)

Earlier this month, the European Commission published a range of new recycling targets for waste which, if accepted by the European Parliament, will be embedded in a revised Waste Framework Directive.

It would mean that local councils would be expected to recycle 70% of household waste by 2030, while the target for packaging waste would be 80%. The Commission is also looking to prohibit the sending of recyclable waste to landfill by 2025.

The proposal has been broadly welcomed by environmental groups, which are working towards a more sustainable approach to waste management and are keen to maximise what we recycle and compost.

I certainly agree that it is ridiculous that thousands and thousands of tonnes of recyclable and bio-degradable material is dumped in landfill or incinerated, when much better use could be made of such resources.

The response from the Government, however, has been quite frosty. It has indicated that its representatives will oppose the targets when they are debated, citing the “potential costs to business, householders and local authorities.”

Such a view is in stark contrast to the “Wealth from Waste” report from the Local Government Association, published a few years ago. This stated: “The simple fact is that taxpayers would be better off, the economy will benefit, and more people will have jobs if we grow the domestic market for collecting, sorting and reprocessing recycling … recycling actually brings in cash for the taxpayer and we owe it to today’s hard-pressed taxpayers to get as much of their money back as possible.”

The Commission’s new targets would certainly need to trigger a step-change in how the United Kingdom deals with waste. According to figures from DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), English local authorities recycle, on average, 43.2% of resident’s waste, though in Wales the figure is over 50%.

But here in Cornwall, the unitary authority is tied into a multi-million-pound “integrated waste management contract” with the controversial incinerator – with an annual capacity of 240,000 tonnes – being built near St Dennis to principally deal with Cornwall’s domestic waste.

We have a recycling rate of less than 40% and are generating 180,000 tonnes of residual waste annually – significantly less than the capacity of the incinerator – and I do fear that efforts to almost double recycling efforts in our area will be stifled by the need to fill the over-sized incinerator in Mid Cornwall.

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