Analysis of English Waste Strategy

May 24 2007

Commenting on today's publication of the English Waste Strategy, Friends of the Earth's senior waste campaigner, Dr Michael Warhurst said:

"David Miliband's waste strategy is a step forward. The Government's renewed commitment to recycling and composting is very welcome - particularly the promotion of weekly food waste collections and the proposal to give councils the opportunity to reward those who recycle more.

"We are also pleased that the Government realises that the best way to generate 100 per cent renewable energy from waste is by putting food waste into anaerobic digestion - not resource-wasting, climate-damaging incinerators.

"But, we are very disappointed that the Government has set a recycling target of just 50 percent by 2020 - tackling climate change requires more ambitious targets. The Government's own analysis has shown that a rate of 60% by 2020 would be much better for the climate. Cambridgeshire County Council already recycles over half its waste, and across the channel in Flanders they recycle nearly three quarters, and we believe that the UK should be aiming for 75% recycling by 2015."

Friends of the Earth:

  • Is very disappointed in the proposed recycling and composting target of 50% by 2020, when our neighbours across the channel in Flanders, Belgium, are already recycling more than 70%, and when the Government's own calculations showed a higher rate would be better for the environment.

  • Welcomes the promotion of 100% renewable energy from anaerobic digestion of food waste, rather than the Government's previous focus on incineration, an out-dated technology that wastes resources and damages the climate

  • Supports plans for weekly food waste collections, as the food waste can be used to generate 100% renewable energy. Currently most of this food waste is ending up in landfill, where it breaks down to produce methane, a greenhouse gas.

  • Supports proposals to permit councils to incentivise recycling, through rewarding those who recycle more. Such schemes are common in other countries, but are currently illegal here. Such schemes should only be introduced where an effective recycling and composting scheme is in place, and should ensure that poorer families are not disproportionately affected. This government has stated that they would wish these schemes to be revenue-neutral.

  • Considers that the proposals to deal with business waste are too weak, and too focused on voluntary measures. In particular, we believe that a ban on the landfill and incineration of reusable, recyclable and compostable waste would encourage more sustainable waste management within companies.

  • Welcomes the plan to set targets for local authorities to reduce residual waste (the amount which goes to landfill or incineration). However, the waste levels suggested are too high - we can recycle, compost and prevent more than is proposed, as the proposal only assumes 50% recycling and composting and a stabilisation of waste quantity).

English Waste Strategy