EU rules seen doubling cost of UK waste dumping
LONDON - The cost of dumping rubbish in Britain may double over the next two years after new legislation from Brussels, designed to cut the amount of waste sent to landfill, takes effect this month, a UK Environment Agency official said.
The European Union\'s Landfill Directive, which comes into force on July 16, will set up tighter waste management standards over the next eighteen years by slashing the amount of biodegradable waste landfilled, and by separating out the most hazardous materials for safe treatment rather than dumping.
Steve Lee, head of waste at the Environment Agency, said at a news briefing that the Landfill Directive would be only the first in a string of regulations cutting the quantity of dangerous substances put into landfill and promoting wider use of recyclable or reusable materials.
Landfill operators would be responsible for determining how they met the tougher standards set out by the directive, but the cost would have to be shouldered by the taxpayer.
\"Typically, in the UK landfill costs without the landfill tax on them tend to be in the range of about 10 pounds ($15) a tonne, sometimes it\'s more, sometimes it\'s less,\" he said.
\"I\'m going to stress that (the cost of implementation) depends on how operators continue to operate and how they will pass on their costs but I wouldn\'t be surprised if we didn\'t see a fairly rapid rise away from 10 pounds a tonne to 15 pounds a tonne and maybe a doubling of costs to 20 pounds a tonne ex-tax.\"
DOWN IN THE DUMPS
Britain sends about 80 to 90 million tonnes of waste a year to the dumps and has extremely cheap landfill costs. This low cost may have hobbled the country in the race to comply with the EU\'s environmental agenda, Lee said.
\"The cheapness of landfill has actually prevented us pursuing more sustainable or imaginative material solutions. Even composting costs quite a bit more than landfilling.\"
\"There are various ways of covering local authorities\' costs in not landfilling, but pretty well every non-landfill option to local authorities at the minute currently costs a lot more than landfill does,\" he added.
In Britain some 1,400 landfill sites are now operating which must apply to the Environment Agency for permits to continue to treat waste of three categories - inert (which will not pollute ground or surface water) non-hazardous (most household, industry or commercial waste) and hazardous.
The sector hit hardest by the new rules will be hazardous materials, which account for about six percent of all the UK\'s landfilled rubbish.
Once the Landfill Directive takes effect, substances such as corrosives or solvent-based liquids will be banned from the dumpsite and will require treatment at specially licensed plants, which Lee said will be heavily policed by the Environment Agency.
\"The Environment Agency goes out there as a routine, checks the standards at the site and we will know immediately if a site is continuing to operate and whether they have submitted a conditioning plan. So there\'s no question of an operator thinking they will be able to slip through the net,\" he said.
FRIDGE FEARS TRASHED
Another EU directive that came into force late last year, on ozone depleting substances, banned the cooling agents in freezers and fridges from being sent to landfill when appliances were scrapped.
A lack of specialised processing facilities has led to a pile of one million old fridges building up all over the country.
The Environment Agency said the Landfill Directive would not offer a repeat performance of the fridge fiasco as the waste management industry had in place the facilities it needed to meet the necessary criteria.
\"The Landfill Directive doesn\'t have to be the next fridge mountain. It\'s very different from fridges in so far as we had time to prepare and plan...and secondly we already have some of the capacity necessary to deal with these materials,\" Lee said.
Mike Walker of the Environmental Services Association, the trade body for the UK waste management industry, said the sector\'s chief need from the government was clear guidelines on how to meet the directive.
\"From the industry perspective there is a step-change going on in the way we handle waste management due to EC regulations. The industry welcomes that. The only way that we will move the waste hierarchy is by regulation - we need consistent regulation and effective regulation,\" he told reporters at the briefing.
Story by Amanda Cooper
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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