10 July 2019 by Lucy Pegg

Climate Change Committee waste target splits opinion

A recommendation from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) to ban biodegradable waste to landfill by 2025 has split opinion within the waste and resources industry.

The CCC – a think tank on climate change, led by the former Environment Secretary Lord Deben – has said that committing to a ban on the landfilling of most biodegradable waste by 2025 must be a priority for “the coming year”.

Food waste at the Agrivert facility

The CCC has recommended that biodegradable waste should be banned from landfill by 2025

It included the deadline suggestion within its report on the progress of the government’s measures to tackle climate change, published today (July 10).

The report makes clear that the CCC believes this deadline is “the very latest” the zero landfill target should be met. But these targets have received a mixed response from those within the waste and resources industry.

Insufficient time

“An early ban on food to landfill cannot be achieved by 2025 as we have insufficient time to obtain planning and build the replacement facilities to collect and treat the food waste that would be diverted,” said Stuart Hayward-Higham, technical development director at Suez UK.

Though Suez claims it will play its part in achieving the national target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, it said there was not sufficient time for the planning and building of replacement facilities to deal with food waste being diverted from landfill.

The waste management company also highlighted the proximity of the 2025 deadline to other planned timeframes set for Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and Deposit Return Schemes (DRS). Suez suggested the focus should be on reducing food waste in order to bring down the amount of biodegradable waste landfilled.

Defra’s Resources and Waste strategy published in late-2018 proposes less immediate targets than those recommended by the CCC. It commits the government to working towards eliminating biodegradable waste sent to landfill by 2035, and food waste by 2030. These are also more distant targets than those set by the Scottish and Welsh governments.

Need for certainty

Jeremy Jacobs, technical director at the Renewable Energy Association, was more optimistic about the CCC recommendations – though he cautioned that industry would need “certainty from Defra by 2020” of what government would be expecting from them.

Mr Jacobs said: “I don’t think 2025 is too ambitious. The issue here is there will be a capacity shortfall initially but if there is warning of what is coming industry will be ready.

“Industry will capitalise on opportunities if they see the market is right. We still haven’t seen how this is all going to be funded.”

Jeremy Jacobs, REA

“Industry will capitalise on opportunities if they see the market is right. We still haven’t seen how this is all going to be funded.”

He did recognise that planning processes could take significant time and that food waste collections across local authorities needed uniformity, if targets were to be met.

The CCC’s publication highlights the high proportion of emissions caused by biodegradable waste in landfill – almost 70% of emissions produced by waste were caused by methane produced anaerobic decomposition of this waste.

However, the diversion of biodegradable waste from landfill, along with the increased capture of methane at landfill sites in the UK, was a major contributor to reductions in UK emissions. This is despite the UK failing to meet its targets for reducing landfill emissions and reducing biodegradable waste to landfill.

Related links
Reducing UK emissions – 2019 Progress Report to Parliament (CCC report)

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