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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 February 2006, 11:17 GMT
Review launched to tackle waste
Landfill site
Landfill sites are becoming increasingly scarce
The government has launched its review into how it plans to tackle the growing problem of waste in England.

Among the proposals is a plan to burn more of the nation's rubbish in an attempt to reduce the amount of refuse ending up in landfill sites.

Environmentalists and local campaign groups are against more incineration plants, saying they will set back efforts to increase recycling rates.

The government is expected to publish its updated strategy later in the year.

Less landfill

One of the review's proposals calls for greater investment in "energy from waste", a process in which incinerators are used to power electricity generation plants.

It calls for 67% of waste to be recycled, composted or recovered through "energy from waste" schemes by 2015.

The proposal would increase the target for recycling and composting to 45%, with the remaining 22% being met by incineration and other energy recovery methods.

Environmental groups rejected the idea that refuse can provide green energy, calling it a "myth". Friends of the Earth said more effort had to be focused on increasing recycling rates.

"Recycling saves more energy than is created by burning waste," said campaigner Anna Watson.

Map showing incineration plants in the UK (BBC)
1) Lerwick
2) Dundee
3) Billingham
4) Bolton
5) Huddersfield
6) Grimsby
7) Sheffield
8) Stoke
9) Nottingham
10) Wolverhampton
11) Dudley
12) Tyseley
13) Coventry
14) Swansea
15) Edmonton
16) Lewisham
17) Chineham
18) Marchwood
19) Portsmouth

"Once built, incinerators lock councils in to supplying them with large amounts of waste that could be better recycled or composted."

The group also said burning rubbish increased the risk of local residents being exposed to dioxins - chemicals that are suspected of causing cancer.

The Industry Council for Packaging and the Environment (INCPEN) said energy from waste had to play a role in the government's long term waste management strategy.

"Our cleaner, greener European neighbours have long understood that energy from waste is sensible," said INCPEN director Jan Bickerstaffe.

"Denmark incinerates 58% of its waste, compared to 9% in the UK.

"According to the Environment Agency, more dioxins were emitted in one hour by the millennium fireworks than will be produced by all of the UK's incinerators in 120 years."

Local environment minister Ben Bradshaw, speaking at the launch of the review's 12-week consultation period, said progress had been made since the strategy was introduced in 2000.

"Recycling and composting of waste has doubled," Mr Bradshaw said, "But there is more to do in order to achieve our aim to reduce our rising streams of waste and bury less of it in landfills."

The other proposals outlined in the consultation document include:

  • More focus on creating less waste by better eco-design and waste reduction schemes for homes and businesses

  • Greater strategic role for local authorities in delivering a "resource economy"

  • New targets to reduce the amount of commercial and industrial waste being sent to landfills

The review's public consultation period will close in May, and the government is expected to publish its findings later in the year.

Q&A: Waste incineration
18 Jan 06 |  Science/Nature

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