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Garbage flood feared as EU laws bite

Garbage flood feared as EU laws bite
LONDON - Britain will be knee-deep in garbage within a generation unless thousands of waste treatment plants are swiftly brought on line, experts say.

European Union rules will cut the amount of rubbish simply thrown into holes in the ground - Britain\'s favourite method of disposal - by 10 percent in 2010 and one-third by 2020.

But plans to burn the trash mountain are being constantly opposed by environmental protesters who, scared by pollution horror stories, don\'t want incinerators in their back yards.

\"Every year we see more campaigns preventing the introduction of desperately needed facilities,\" said Nigel Mattravers of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE).

\"The general public need to be educated to allay their fears about the dangers of these facilities and understand that refusing them may lead to the much larger problem of millions of tonnes of rubbish with simply nowhere to go,\" he told Reuters yesterday.

He urged the government to create a coherent waste policy and not simply pass the buck to the local authorities.

In a report, the ICE said 2,300 new waste treatment facilities costing 30 billion pounds needed to be on line by 2020 if the country was not simply to sink under the avalanche of untreated waste.

Currently the vast majority of the 30 million tonnes of household waste produced annually goes into holes in the ground.

Meeting the first EU target of cutting landfill 10 percent by 2010 would leave more than three million tonnes of this without a home - a figure set to top 10 million tonnes a year by the 2020 deadline.

\"All these million tonnes of rubbish will need to be diverted to other treatment facilities that currently don\'t exist,\" Mattravers said.

The ICE said alternatives such as recycling, incineration and composting needed to be implemented rapidly - with a combination of some or all of them necessary to replace each closed landfill site.

Mattravers said on average a new plant took five years from planning to production.

\"Britain, as is so often the case across all sectors, is miles behind continental Europe in waste management,\" he said.

\"The need to move away from just stuffing our waste into the ground means that in six years\' time we will need to be where countries like Denmark and the Netherlands were a decade ago.\"

Britain has long lagged behind continental Europe in waste management - and particularly recycling - for the simple reason that landfill has traditionally been cheap.

But the government is quickly changing that, having already raised landfill fees to 15 pounds a tonne with the price set to rise at a rate of three pounds a year.

\"Regardless of the EU legislation, landfill is rapidly becoming uneconomic. We need alternatives,\" Mattravers said.

Story by Jeremy Lovell

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