Britain is facing a "looming disaster" because of a lack of facilities to deal with growing mountains of rubbish, according to a new report.
Britain could be swamped by rubbish, report warns
The Institution of Civil Engineers says ill-informed public protests and poor government leadership are blocking the building of waste treatment plants.
The report says more than 2,000 new plants - including recycling centres - will be needed in the next 20 years.
However, the government said the report underestimated steps already under way.
The UK has signed up to European Union rules which will mean ending the practice of dumping most rubbish untreated in landfill sites.
But the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) says with more waste being produced every year and the lack of proper treatment facilities being built, the country faces a major crisis in coming years.
The institution, which has over 70,000 members, says 2,300 new facilities need to be created by 2020 at the cost of around £30bn.
It says the building and running of the plants would provide thousands of jobs but public animosity, government prevarication and industry nervousness are stalling the process.
Nigel Mattravers, vice chairman of ICE's Waste Management Board, says: "Private companies are constantly fighting an uphill battle against local government and UK residents over the location of plants.
"The general public need to be educated to allay their fears about the dangers of these facilities and understand that refusing them may lead to the much larger problem of millions of tonnes of rubbish with simply nowhere to go."
The ICE's State Of The Nation 2004 report says the strategy of cramming tonnes of rubbish into hundreds of large landfill sites is no longer environmentally viable or sensible.
The new EU landfill regulations hope to reduce the amount of waste disposed of in landfills by imposing increasingly high taxes on excessive volumes.
The aim is that the landfill method of waste disposal will soon cease to be economically viable.
Mr Mattravers said: "Britain, as is so often the case across all sectors, is miles behind continental Europe in waste management industry advancements."
He added: "By just looking at the 30 million tonnes of municipal waste we leave outside our houses, most of which the UK currently sends to landfill, we can glimpse the magnitude of the problem."
However, the UK environment minister Elliott Morley said the report underestimated the steps being taken by the government to improve public understanding of the waste problem, and to increase recycling rates.