Fall in demand for recycled materials must not lead to increase in landfill, says Defra

13 Nov 08
The government has said landfill should remain a last resort for waste disposal despite fears over a lack of suitable storage for recycled materials

14 November 2008

By Paul Dicken

The government has said landfill should remain a last resort for waste disposal despite fears over a lack of suitable storage for recycled materials.

In a joint statement, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Environment Agency, the Waste and Resources Action Programme and the National Industrial Symbiosis Programme said they wanted to ensure that public confidence in the value of recycling was not undermined by the slowdown in demand for recovered materials and a fall in prices.

Household recycling rates rose to 34.5% in 2007/08, compared with 30.9% in 2006/07. More than 90% of councils now meet or exceed household recycling targets, according to figures released on November 6.

But an unprecedented rise in the demand for recovered materials in developing economies earlier this year has collapsed, a development likely to create stockpiles of recyclables while the market stabilises.

The statement said government priorities were 'to ensure any storage of recyclables doesn't undermine the environment or public health or the recyclability of those materials' and 'where the traditional markets for recyclables have contracted, to encourage recovery and disposal options towards the top of the waste hierarchy – ie, landfill as a last resort'.

Steve Creed, director of business growth at the Waste and Resources Action Programme, said: 'Wrap still believes the current very low prices for recovered materials will be temporary. At present, we have no evidence of widespread stockpiling.'

Research is continuing to find out the extent of the situation, and Wrap insisted that recycling remained a better and cheaper option than sending to landfill.

Creed said high-quality materials were still in demand domestically and overseas, adding that recycling capacity had substantially increased in the UK.

The chair of the Local Government Association's environment board, Cllr Paul Bettison, is expected to advise town halls next week on practical measures that can be taken to ensure materials are stored in the short term without compromising their quality or the environment.

PFnov2008

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