By Geeta Chandra . 02 August 2021

Government’s White Paper proffers a rethink about waste planning

Recycling in the UK has experienced a formidable increase, from less than 10% in 2000 to almost 50% today. However, 50% is not nearly enough to tackle the environmental issue we are currently facing as a country, and is way off the 65% target set by the Resources and Waste Strategy to be reached by 2035.

Once collected, waste materials are sorted and then reprocessed into raw materials for reuse and reprocessing. The reprocessing of such materials within the UK is a notorious industry bottleneck, as the Government has historically exported a large portion of recyclable waste for reprocessing to other countries. However the climate change agenda and other societal, economic and environmental pressures have lead the demand for domestic reprocessing, not to mention the claims made in this video by Greenpeace that the Government is actually exporting some recyclable waste for dumping and burning.

There is also the issue of what is called ‘residual waste’, which is what is left over after the recoverable parts of recyclable waste have been collected. This is what is typically sent to Energy from Waste plants in order to avoid landfill.

While every effort can be made to recycle or turn waste into energy, there is still a requirement for landfill for the 15 million tonnes per year which cannot be reprocessed, incinerated or used in any other way; and landfill capacity is rapidly approaching zero. According to the Resources and Waste Strategy, the shortfall between requirement and capacity is up to 8 million tonnes.

The status quo simply cannot continue and so the reforms to integrate waste planning into wider planning policy which have been proffered in the Government’s Planning White Paper must be considered.

Planning for waste is usually wound up under a local authorities’ planning for minerals. However with waste management evolving into a quasi-logistics operation over recent years, ‘minerals’ is less appropriate a category than ever before. This is why the proposed reforms offer an ideal opportunity to incorporate waste management into an appropriate planning area which will help the UK to not only to meet recycling targets, but also to conserve valuable materials for use in the Circular Economy.

Read the full ‘Planning for a Green Economic Recovery’ report here.

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