An article published by The Guardian last year highlights how the use of landfills for waste treatment has decreased across the UK in recent years, from treating around 90% of all waste in 2009 to around 50% in 2015. This is forecast to represent only around 10% in 2020.
This has happened for a combination of reasons. Since the 1990s, many landfills in the UK have closed down, as they have gradually become full and haven’t been replaced with new ones. Although landfills in the UK are well managed, they take up a very large amount of space and are considered unpleasant for local residents. A landfill tax has further made it more expensive to operate landfills in the UK. Businesses and municipalities that bring their waste to landfill now have to pay £82.60 per tonne of waste brought to landfill.
Although recycling is prioritized in the first instance as a method of waste treatment, government policy now favors incineration for final disposal, which allows energy to be generated by burning waste at very high temperatures.
In 2015, the European Commission finalized an ambitious Action Plan for waste management, setting targets which included:
- A common EU target for recycling 65% of municipal waste by 2030
- A binding landfill target to reduce landfill to maximum of 10% of all waste by 2030
Rates of recycling for household waste in the UK were at 40.4% in 2014.
EU Circular Economy directive: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/circular-economy/index_en.htm