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Demands of oversized incinerator will stifle the efforts to recycle more waste

Jul 30, 2014

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 per cent of household waste by 2030, while the target for packaging waste would be 80 per cent. 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, who 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 biodegradable 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 (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), English local authorities recycle, on average, 43.2 per cent of residents’ waste, though in Wales the figure is over 50 per cent.

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

We have a recycling rate of less than 40 per cent 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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