A committee of MPs has warned that the UK could fail to meet the EU target of recycling 50% of household waste by 2020, unless the government takes action and shows leadership on the issue.
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A report from the environment, food and rural affairs committee states that since April this year the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has “stepped back” from waste management despite being charged with developing a zero waste economy.
Chair of the committee Anne McIntosh commented, “Defra ‘stepped back’ from waste management at a time when we need both a more ambitious approach to waste management and stronger government leadership to drive up static recycling rates in England and make better use of energy recovery options such as local heating for homes.”
In 2012-2013 around 43% of household waste was recycled in England but the annual rate of increase has started to slow. MPs state this is of particular concern when the EU target for recycling at least 50% of household waste by 2020 is considered. The European Commission has also proposed a 70% target for 2030.
The report estimates that a more circular economy could help generate 50,000 new jobs with £10 billion investment, boosting the UK’s GDP by £3 billion. MPs therefore call on Defra to take a leading role and responsibility for waste management policy to ensure full potential is realised.
The committee has also called for clear guidance from Defra on how much waste treatment is needed in England to gain an optimal balance between the export of refuse-derived fuel and local treatment.
McIntosh commented, “MPs support the use of anaerobic digestion for processing waste, but not for use with purpose-grown crops. The committee also warns that more work is needed to address the issue surrounding separate waste collections.”
The Renewable Energy Association (REA) welcomed the report, noting that energy generated from waste also offers significant opportunities for the UK.
REA technical director Jeremy Jacobs said, “Defra should be doing more, not less, to realise the potential of waste-based renewables. For instance, the UK still exports vast quantities of refuse-derived fuel.
“We could be using this valuable resource here to generate very cheap low carbon hear and power in conventional combustion plants, or to boost development of cutting edge UK technology like gasification and pyrolysis, instead of shipping it off to the continent.”
Photo: Bill McChesney via Flickr