BAN Waste Select Committee evidence

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Phase 1 Day 7 2001-10-22 Mr Paul Dumpleton (UK Recycling Manager, SITA)

written evidence submitted in advance

Summary of evidence - recycling in the UK

It was in 1992 that recycling started to take off in Europe with Germany bringing in environmental legislation several years ahead of the UK because here the economic and social drivers at the time were so very different. Both Germany and France introduced extensive recycling initiatives and at one stage the cost of recycling in Germany grew to such an extent that it acted as a deterrent to the UK who never accepted that this level of funding was appropriate. Now though, European legislation such as the Landfill Directive (which requires a move away from landfill) and the Waste Packaging Directive (which requires specific volumes of packaging to be recycled) have at last meant the UK is taking recycling and a sustainable approach to waste management more seriously.

There has long been a debate over the hierarchical nature of waste treatment with Reduction being the most preferred, followed in descending order by Re use, Recycling / Recovery and finally disposal as the option that underpins all others by taking the final residue. The issue for most Governments is that the greater the desire to move treatment options up the hierarchy the greater the cost.

The UK Government has looked for and I believe found the Best Practical Environmental Option for the UK in supporting an integrated waste management solution. This integrated approach acknowledges the need to move up the waste hierarchy, whilst at the same time recognising that the demand for landfill, energy from waste and recycling as waste treatment solutions will be decided by local requirements.

Recycling is beginning to have a much higher profile as social and legislative drivers stimulate the sector but it is just not practical to introduce the high levels of recycling suggested by some without having a dramatic impact upon the UK and local economies. Increased costs incurred, as a result of high levels of recycling will have a direct impact upon council taxation and would certainly bring inflationary pressure.

Despite recent reports to the contrary recycling in the UK is beginning to take shape and although far from the finished article, legislation is starting to have a grass root impact that if guided in the right direction will deliver the required results.

We are seeing greatly increased activity in all waste generating sectors and the combined impact of increasing Landfill Tax, the National Waste Strategy and Packaging Waste recycling legislation is making producers of waste revisit their waste management options and focus on the task ahead.

The success of any recycling initiative will largely depend upon the availability of end markets and for the first time we are starting to see across the board investment that will impact upon the UK in both the domestic and international markets.

Domestically we have seen the development of the use of glass as a secondary aggregate and we have also seen the announcement of additional bottle making capacity, the traditional market for recycled glass.

Despite the closure of several paper mills in the UK over the past few years we are once again seeing increased activity in both the packaging and newsprint sectors.

The aluminium industry continues to import material to satisfy the capacity at their re processing plants and the steel packaging industry although suffering in the UK continues to find consistent markets in mainland Europe.

Plastic re-processors have started to re invest in plant and equipment and perhaps the most significant factor in this sector is the fact that the investment is coming from established mainstream markets as well as the alternative use market.

The UK has three main drivers to increase recycling in the immediate future these are Landfill tax, Packaging Waste Legislation and The National Waste Strategy.

Both the Public and Private sectors are starting to evaluate their options as the cost of landfill continues to rise. At this point of time landfill, is in the majority of cases, still the cheapest disposal option, but with the predicted growth of landfill tax this can not continue.

The National Waste Strategy has given for the first time local authorities statutory recycling targets, which will provide the necessary impetus and an excellent framework for co-operation. This in some areas has been a big stumbling block for recycling initiatives but joint ownership of the responsibility supported by Key Performance Indicator targets will provide the right environment for significant strides in material generation.

SITA has for its part has extensive experience in Municipal recycling in the UK operating 20 different kerbside collection contracts, over 100 Civic amenity sites and 6 Material Recycling Facilities (MRF's). SITA handles over 300,000 tonnes of recyclables in this sector on an annual basis and has been at the forefront of local authority recycling for many years.

SITA has invested in recycling technology in both the collection and processing sectors and can demonstrate considerable experience in both source segregated and co mingled recycling schemes. Environmental legislation will inevitably lead to an increase in the variety of schemes put before local authorities and SITA is pleased to open its facilities to the local community to increase their awareness of the various options available to them.