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UK Gov: Waste To Landfill And Incineration To Be Halved By 2042 | Waste Management Solutions


A new set of environment and sustainability targets were announced yesterday by the government of the United Kingdom, which included the aim of halving the amount of waste sent to landfill and incineration by 2042.

Whether the target is reached or not will be measured against 2019 waste statistics, which estimate around 560kg of waste is produced every year per capita. The UK government did state what they described as ‘major mineral waste’ streams would be excluded from these new targets. This is apparently because these materials are ‘largely inert waste categories from construction and demolition, and excavation and mining activities.’ The government justified this exclusion on the basis that it will allow them to focus on the aspects of waste production and disposal ‘where the environmental impact is greatest, and where our evidence is strongest.’

Construction Waste Management

At Let’s Recycle It Ltd, we deal with enough of these construction and other materials to know that it is important not to neglect them. Even if they remain excluded from these targets, something still needs to be in place to ensure these materials are handled sustainably and responsibly. They may not pose the same biological or chemical environmental risks as other types of waste, but they are still used by these industries in very large quantities. Ensuring they are properly recycled will not only void the carbon emissions from manufacturing new, virgin materials, but will help to move us in the important direction of a more circular economy.

According to the government, these new targets are designed to make us take a more ‘holistic view’ of waste; this is to minimise the risk of ‘perversely incentivising material substitution with potentially worse environmental impacts through material-specific targets.’

Climate Change Action Plan

This objective to halve all waste to landfill and incineration by 2042 is one of several commitments outlined in the 25 Year Environment Plan. At Let’s Recycle It, we are particularly happy to see the inclusion of the objective to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste by 2042. We are always happy to see governments and other authorities taking action to increase the rates at which we reduce our reliance on single-use plastics and increase our plastic recycling rates; though, we don’t necessarily think we need to wait as long as 2042 to achieve these results. With more decisive action, this could be a reality much sooner.

The end point of the waste management process is what will be used to measure this target, i.e., how the waste is actually treated. This will include the treatments that are most commonly used for mixed residual waste streams, such as being sent to landfill, to incineration, overseas to energy recovery or to transport fuel energy recovery.

Waste Management Recycling

The government stated in the consultation document for these plans that they will ‘continue to review’ which waste treatments are appropriate for inclusion, considering new technologies and treatment options that become available over time. Data provided by the Environment Agency on permitted waste site activities and international waste shipments will be utilised to report on the metric, with the government ‘recognising that there is limited data availability at the point waste is collected.’

These new targets being proposed are part of the government’s Environment Act, which was passed into law last year in November. The targets will undergo an eight week period of consultation, with the response from the government being expected in early summer 2022.

George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, said, ‘These proposed targets are intended to set a clear, long-term plan for nature’s recovery. In a post EU era, we now have the freedom to move towards a system that focuses on nature’s recovery as well as its preservation, and which places more emphasis on science and less emphasis on legal process. This change in approach will help us in the pursuit of the targets we are setting under the Environment Act.’

Plastic Recyclable

The government taking pro-active steps to increase recycling rates, reduce waste and move the economy towards circularity is something we will always be glad to see here at Let’s Recycle It Ltd. However, we would encourage the government to be more ambitious in terms of timeline; we don’t think we need to wait until 2042 to achieve the things they’re talking about. With the right support offered to recyclers, we could halve waste sent to landfill and incineration and eliminate all avoidable plastic waste much sooner.

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