EU Referendum

EU regulation: towards zero landfill


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Ever since Raedwald did his post in 2008, updated in 2011, the gaff has been well and truly blown on the Commission's anti-landfill propaganda.

Far from running out of space, as the Commission constantly asserts, the UK is producing approximately 70 million cubic metres of municipal waste each year, while it has over 819 million cubic metres available for landfill and is creating about 114 million cubic metres of new space each year, mainly from quarrying and gravel extraction.

Given that refuse could also be used for reclaiming land from the sea, there is no likelihood of any shortage of landfill space, now or in the foreseeable future.

That does not, of course, stop multitudinous media outlets prattling about a "shortage", but this is entirely artificial, driven by the refusal of licensing authorities to permit the development of new sites, and because of the swingeing "landfill tax" imposed by central government, aimed at deterring the use of landfill for waste disposal.

Worse still, after a decade and more of needlessly increasing the cost of waste disposal, to the detriment of other public services, the European Commission has today produced a new legislative proposal which takes us into altogether new territory.

According to its press release, it plans to set a new target for recycling, requiring 70 percent of all municipal waste and 80 percent of packaging waste to be recycled by 2030, and totally to ban the landfill of recyclable waste by 2025, aiming "to virtually eliminate landfill" by 2030. At most, it will accept an irreducible minimum of five percent of waste, that cannot be recycled.

Those new targets will, according to the Guardian be "difficult for the UK to meet".

Recycling rates have recently stagnated after a period of rapid growth in the past decade, with DEFRA figures released in November recording 43.2 percent of waste in England recycled in 2012-13 (which much of that then ending in landfill).

For householders already groaning under the increased burden of Council Tax, outstripping inflation simply to meet such impositions, as well as have to put up with more and more recycling bins cluttering their properties, this is possibly the last straw.

The Commission, on the other hand, has given itself over to green ideology, and is telling us that its new plans, together with "waste prevention, ecodesign, reuse and similar measures" could bring "net savings of € 600 billion", or eight percent of annual turnover, for businesses in the EU, while "reducing total annual greenhouse gas emissions by 2-4 percent". It also believes that over two million "extra" jobs could be created.

This is all part of what the Commission is calling a "circular economy", breaking away from the "take-make-dispose" model to a never-ending cycle of making, recycling and re-using.

Janez Poto?nik, the outgoing European commissioner for the environment, says that the "circular economy" is unlikely to spring into being if simply left to the market: "It is profitable, but that does not mean it will happen without the right policies", he says.

To drive the agenda, therefore, he proposes that the EU's new Horizon 2020 research programme will be used to support research and development in the waste management and recycling industries, and in improving the design of products to make them easier to reuse, repair and recycle. Thereby we see once again the research budget being used to support legislative initiatives.

It is this sort of madness, though, that is going to drive us out of the EU altogether – except that the Commission claims its new proposals also have "EEA relevance". That means it will also apply to EFTA/EEA countries, including Britain if it was outside the EU but within the EEA.

However, there is always an opportunity to challenge EEA application, which the UK would have to do. Probably, the average householder has reached the limit of tolerance on the number of bins they will accept, this latest initiative thus adding a powerful new incentive to quit the EU as fast as possible.