A European Commission official has said that the UK has an excellent opportunity to reduce waste levels without sending large amounts to incinerators.
Dr Alan Seatter, deputy director general at the Commission’s DG Environment, said that policies such as introducing more landfill charges could enable the UK to leapfrog the incineration stage, cut waste and focus more on increasing recycling and reuse levels.Speaking at a panel discussion organised by the Associate Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group (APSRG)in theHouse of Lords yesterday (December 4), Dr Seatter said that high waste incineration levels in Norway and Sweden should act as a warning to the UK.
Dr Seatter said: There is an opportunity in the UK to go to a different stage and leapfrog the incineration stage.
The event, chaired by APSRGs Barry Sheerman MP, focused on sustainable resource management policy across the EU to 2020 and beyond.
Also speaking at the event was marketing and communications director at underground waste vacuum system company the Envac Group, Jonas Tornblom, who said that only 1% of waste in Sweden is sent to landfill, but that strategies there and in Norway had led to large amounts of waste being incinerated.
He said: Sweden needs to recycle more hopefully this can change as people are very, very willing to recycle and help out where they can.
Dr Seatter also pointed to the need for Europe-wide labelling of products, which the EU is currently looking into, so that consumers would know how much of a product is recycled and how resource efficient it is.
How can we get products to be accepted all across Europe? Japan, Korea, the USA they are all interested in this discussion. This is what we are working towards. It is an experiment that we are trying at the moment. We feel we are at the stage of trying to encourage people to come together and discuss what is the best way forward.
The difficulty of implementing a consistent circular economy across Europe was also highlighted at the discussion by chair of the Circular Economy Taskforce at Green Alliance, Julie Hill.
She said: Most of what happens in the UK is driven by the EU. But while the UKs resource security action plan and circular economy is part of the vocabulary, but there is no shared view of what a circular economy really means or how we get there.
However, she added that a lot of improvements could be made to waste reduction by using existing infrastructure and legislation more effectively.
We can go a long way just by implementing what we already have better the capture of WEEE for example. All this will reap resource efficiency type benefits.
A circular economy would see materials being captured and remanufactured or reused rather than being sent to landfill.
The Circular Economy Taskforce includes representatives from Viridor, WRAP, Defra, Green Alliance, Veolia and Boots among others. A series of conferences are planned for next year with a report from the group currently set for June 2012.