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Wednesday, 21 November, 2001, 16:35 GMT
Summit tackles UK waste mountain
People at recycling bins
People need to be encouraged to recycle more
A summit to discuss ways of tackling Britain's growing waste mountain has been described as "useful and constructive" by Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett, who hosted it.

Britain produces about 400 million tonnes of rubbish each year, and the problem of how to dispose of it is seen as one of the country's biggest environmental challenges.


The government has got itself into a complete mess over recycling by failing to set longer-term targets

Friends of the Earth

Britain is under pressure to meet legally binding European targets to reduce the amount of waste it dumps in landfill sites.

Local authorities, environmentalists and waste management experts meet on Wednesday to address issues such as how the country's poor recycling efforts can be improved.

Speaking after the summit Mrs Beckett said delegates "were really engaged and interested and concerned to deliver improvements in the way we minimise waste and the way we deal with it".

But the meeting recognised that there was a long way to go, she added.

A new Performance and Innovation Unit review will be set up as a result of the summit to take forward the discussions and ideas put forward.

Incinerator plans

Mrs Beckett said a consultation paper will also be published with a breakdown of how the 140m due to be provided to local authorities over the next two years to increase recycling will be distributed.

Downing Street advisers have warned the UK faces fines of 500,000 a day if EU rules on landfill sites are not met by 2010.

Some of Mrs Beckett's advisors are said to be advocating much tougher sanctions against councils who fail to meet waste disposal targets.

They are also proposing tax incentives to encourage the re-use of materials and deter the dumping of rubbish.

Recycling rates
UK: 11% Switzerland, Germany and Austria: 50%
Glass
UK: 25%
Switzerland: 93%
Steel
UK: 30%
Germany: 80%
Aluminium
UK: 38%
Switzerland: 89%
But the mounting waste problem could also lead to the introduction of controversial incinerators.

Mrs Beckett said some delegates at the summit felt incineration was "uniformly bad and must not be contemplated under any circumstances".

But she said there is an equally strong view that "we could not deliver on our commitments under the Landfill Directive without some element of incineration".

Continual discussion

Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Malcolm Bruce said action was needed on the issue of waste - not more discussion.

"Every day brings another summit, task force, review or policy group," he said.

"Continual discussion simply clouds the issues at hand, while direct action would much better serve our environment.

"A National Recycling Programme must be sustained, while tougher action is needed on reducing the actual amount of waste produced."


Continual discussion simply clouds the issues at hand

Malcolm Bruce MP
Liberal Democrats
At the summit, Friends of the Earth is expected to call for targets to maximise recycling and composting.

The senior waste campaigner at Friends of the Earth, Mike Childs, said: "The government has got itself into a complete mess over recycling by failing to set longer-term recycling targets to meet strict EU landfill laws.

"It is also provoking community anger by leaving the door open for scores of deeply unpopular new incinerators."

Mark Strutt, toxics campaigner for Greenpeace, said: "It is time the government provided some leadership and make it clear that old disposal technologies like incineration and landfill are a thing of the past."

Local authorities should be given a statutory duty to provide everybody with a quality household recycling service, the group says.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
UK Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett
"We are not in a mess"
David Grant Lawrence, European Commission
on how Britain compares to the rest of Europe
The BBC's Julie Etchingham
"Britain produces 400 million tonnes of waste per year"
See also:

25 May 00 | UK Politics
Recycling levels 'pathetic' - Meacher
25 May 00 | Sci/Tech
What a waste of good rubbish
25 May 00 | UK
It's a dirty job...
01 Jul 99 | UK
Re-using and recycling
01 Mar 00 | Health
Recycling health warning
30 Jun 99 | UK
New plans for old waste
29 Jul 98 | UK
A nation of landfills
09 Jun 98 | UK
Recycle or pay up plan
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