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Waste to landfill continues to fall

Almost a quarter less waste was sent to landfill in 2007 compared to 2001, a new report from the Environment Agency reveals today.

In 2001, the year before the EU Landfill Directive came into effect in England and Wales, around 84 million tonnes of waste was sent to landfill, last year the figure stood at 65 M tonnes – a drop of 23%. The amount of waste landfilled in 2006 was 69M tonnes – with the 2007 figure showing a drop of more than 5 percent.

Martin Brocklehurst, Head of External Waste Programmes at the Environment Agency, said: “Last year nearly 20 million tonnes less waste went to landfill when compared to 2001 – which equates to about 500 million wheelie bins.

“This is good news and shows we are recycling more waste every year, and heading in the right direction to reduce our dependency on landfill in the long-term.”

Other key findings of the Waste Information report for 2007:

We are recovering and re-using more waste – the amount of waste going into composting sites increased by 44% and inputs into materials recovery facilities was up by 6% between 2006 and 2007. Landfill is down 23% and treatment up 53% since 2000/1.

Landfill capacity has remained about the same year on year – although landfill disposal capacity fell by around 10% between 2001 and 2006, there was some recovery in 2007. This is due to new inert landfill sites opening.

Available landfill capacity remains unevenly distributed – landfill life in London, East of England and the South East is now 3 to 5 years, and averages between 5 and 13 years in other regions. These are projections based on 2007 input rates and do not necessarily mean that we will physically run out of landfill space in the next few years. However it highlights the urgency that still exists to reduce waste production, promote waste recovery and develop new infrastructure to support this.

Around 500 licensed landfill sites were operational in December 2007 – many landfill sites have closed down as a result of implementing the stringent requirements of the Landfill Directive.

Hazardous waste going to landfill remained about the same between 2006 and 2007 – in 2007 only 850,000 tonnes of hazardous waste went to landfill compared to 2.3 million in 2004. This was as a result of tighter restrictions imposed by the Landfill Directive on what wastes can go to landfill.

Martin Brocklehurst added: “Even during these difficult market conditions, landfill should be the last resort for waste materials that we can't immediately recover or recycle.

“The key to retaining an outlet for recyclable materials is to ensure a quality product for the buyer by maintaining and improving standards in dealing with waste.”

Waste Information 2007 is an annual report produced using data routinely collect by the Environment Agency from waste management sites it regulates. It helps local authorities, regional planning bodies, government, and the waste management industry plan future waste management provision in England and Wales.

Waste Information 2007 is available from the Environment Agency website at: Waste Data 2007

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