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Michael Laiyemo Page 1
Are current waste management strategies sufficient for providing a
solution to the waste management issues in the UK?
MICHAEL A. LAIYEMO
INSTITUTE OF ENVIRONMENT (IFE), BRUNEL
DR STEPHEN KERSHAW
COURSE TUTOR ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT
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The amount of waste generated by the United Kingdom in a year is about 280million tonnes
and these wastes could impact negatively to the country’s economy and possesses danger to
the environment. To ease up the waste issue, the government introduced policies and
strategies so that a zero waste economy can be achieved. (Defra 2011). Although, zero waste
is not achievable in the near future, but this concept of zero waste targets is a yardstick used
to increase the effectiveness of the strategies. (Cossu 2009).
In defining waste with reference to the context of this report, the legislative approach must be
adopted. In Rostron’s (2008) report on the law and regulation of waste in the United
Kingdom, waste was described according to environmental agency’s regulation as “Directive
waste” and it was defined as any substance or objects that the manufacturer or keeper wants
to discard or intends or is required to discard.
The aim of this report is to critically analyse the waste management strategies and indicate if
it helps to address the issue of waste impairment in the United Kingdom or suggest credible
alternative measures for an efficient waste management goal. This report is based on various
literature reviews and supported by visits to west London composting site, and Veolia
This report focuses on England, wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland in total because they
are the four nations that make up the United Kingdom and are controlled by the same
directives on waste.
Waste management in the United Kingdom
Waste management in the United Kingdom is driven by policies initiated by the government,
which goes deep into making researches about a wide range of disciplines like science,
technology and the society. (Deutz and Frostick 2009).
A general policy for waste regulation was first initiated in 1975 for the E.U. states and U.K.
being a member state was obliged to implement the directive. Council Directive 75/442/EEC
was set out to regulate waste disposal not at the detriment to human health or the
environment. (Rostron 2008). This directive has gone through reviews and amendments a
couple of times, (Vehlow et al 2007) but the directive that made a tremendous change in
waste management strategies was the introduction of the Waste Framework Directive
(Directive 2008/98/EC) which adopted the use of the waste hierarchy to improve waste
management in the E.U. member states.
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The diagram below shows the sequence of waste management in a scale of preference.
The waste hierarchy pyramid diagram above simply implies that in order to manage waste,
there should be reduction in the creation of waste by using less material in manufacturing,
employing a better manufacturing strategy and by influencing end users in the reduction
concept by manipulating the design and packaging of their products to suit the purpose of
waste reduction. (Bernan 2008).
The next priority stage is reuse, which implies that wastes can either be reused for the same
reason it was acquired for or reused for a different purpose. The practises on such wastes
could include repairing it if broken, cleaning or total maintenance of the item. (Defra 2011).
Going further down the pyramid in preferential sequence, is the recycle stage in which
wastes that have lost their original functionality can be used for an entirely different purpose.
This process could involve composting if it meets up with the requirement. (Defra 2011).
If the state of the waste is beyond the processes described above, then a step further down the
pyramid is the recovery stage where some wastes are deemed to be valuable by energy
recovery. This can be achieved by processes like anaerobic digestion and incineration.
(Phillips et al 2002). And the final stage is disposal of the waste which is the least desirable
and landfilling is the adopted method for a safe waste disposal in such instance.
In conjunction with the set directives by the European council, the United Kingdom
government introduced legislations mostly to encourage recycling, which includes;
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(a) The landfill tax regulation 1996: It involves the introduction of levies or taxes for the
weight of waste landfilled. This regulation was implemented to discourage
dependency on using land filling as a means of waste disposal. (Read et al 1997).
(b) Waste minimization act 1998: This act empowers local authorities to set out goals to
check on the amount of waste produced by every household. This act is not enforced
neither is it monitored by councils for effective adherence to the regulation. (North
(c) Animal by-products order and regulations 2003: This law forbids the feeding of
livestock with certain wastes and the use of animal by-products for production of pig
and poultry feeds. (Defra)
(d) Household waste recycling act 2004: This act imposes a general duty on every waste
collection authority to arrange for waste to be collected in their area and should
involve the collection of two types of recyclable waste and household waste in
different compartments, and they could be picked up together or individually.
(e) Local government act 1999-best value regime: This act demands a best value
performance from local authorities and these performances are reviewed annually
using best value indicators (BVPI) in which waste related matters are included in this
measurement of efficiency. (North Lincolnshire Council)
Data on recycled waste in UK with comparison with to EU member states.
Fernie and Hart (2001), reported that in the European directive (94/62/EC, 1994) on
packaging waste set out in 1994, Germany recovered 80% of packaging waste and 65%
recovered by the Netherlands. While other European countries implemented this decree in
their states in 1997, U.K. did likewise but compared to the target set by E.U. members state
U.K. had the lowest recycling rate target of 38% and this figure rose to 52% in 2001.
This data was supported by Hill et al (2006) confirming that U.K. recycles 42% of all waste
produced compared to San Francisco, Australia and Belgium whose recycling rate is 70% or
Diagram below shows household waste collected and recycled in the E.U. in 2007.
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Fig 2 Source: BBC NEWS
According to Defra (2011), about 40% of household waste is currently recycled in 2011
compared to 18% in 2007 and 55% of waste produced in the UK is sent to landfill, compared
to an EU-27 average of 40%.
A visit to Veolia landfilling site shows that landfilling is still a major practise in UK and the
workers justified there practises by estimating the amount of energy generated by the landfill
site to be 9.5MW, these amount of energy is not comparable to land contamination, disease
spread and over exploitation of natural resources. Landfilling needs to be at a drastic
reduction and the best way is by increasing the number of waste recycled.
Composting was well demonstrated at the west London composting site, and the site is
situated in secluded place to avoid disturbances in a residential neighbourhood. Composting
is a considerable method but not should be depended on.
Considering Fig 2 above, amongst the 15 European Union countries United Kingdom
happens to be within the last 3 in terms of the number of recycled waste in 2007 and its total
waste per head is above the average total waste. This is an indication that recycling in the UK
is a problem, governing by various factors.
According to a report from the House of Commons (2006-07), reprocessing capacity for
recycling collected waste in the UK is not enough to carry out the whole task of waste
recovery or recycling. Instead UK seriously depends on exporting about 58% of these
materials for recycling to meet the increasing domestic demands for recycling. Furthermore,
the report discussed the claim by Defra to increase recycle rate to 40% by 2010 in order to
divert waste from going to landfills but this increment of recycle rate increases the number of
wastes exported for reprocessing.
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The normal belief is if landfill taxes increases, other waste disposal methods will be preferred
to landfilling however it may not be the case if waste taxes are not applied to other waste
disposal methods. (Couth et al 2003)
In view of the foregoing, the landfill tax increment contributes to recycling problems in the
UK because it encourages a diversion towards a method that is cheaper in the waste hierarchy
and the method closest to achieving minimal cost of waste disposal is incineration. This
makes people stare away from recycling and obviously indulge in the practice of mass
burning of waste which could be detrimental to human health. (Hill et al). This reason makes
it imperative to introduce taxes for waste that are incinerated.
The waste hierarchy system is a good strategy to control waste issues in the UK. From data
seen, it works in other EU countries by increasing their recycling rate. But strict measures
like fines should be strictly enforced to keep in check the excesses of businesses and
households that disregard the waste regulations.
The need to recycle waste should be emphasized to the public and the basic infrastructure for
waste disposal should be available at the convenience of the public.
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http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6222288.stm (date accessed 5th December 2011)
Bernan. 2007-2008. Waste reduction volume 1: Report. House of Lords science and
technology committee. 6th report of session 2007-08.
Blackhall, J.C. 2005. Planning law and practice Third edition.
Cossu, R. 2009. Driving forces in national waste management strategies. Waste Management
Couth, R.J., Davies, J.N., and Howe, A. 2003. Landfill Financing and Contracts.
Proceedings Sardinia 2003, Ninth International Waste Management and Landfill Symposium.
Defra 2011. Http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/waste/ (date accessed 3rd December 2011)
Defra: The Animal By-Products (Amendments) (England) (Wales) (Scotland) Orders.
(date accessed 4th December 2011).
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Deutz, P. and Frostick, L.,. 2009. Reconciling policy, practice, and theorisations of waste
management. The Geographical Journal, Vol. 175, No. 4, December 2009, pp. 247–250geo
Fernie, J. and Hart, C. 2001. UK packaging waste legislation: Implications for food retailers.
British Food Journal, Vol. 103 No. 3, 2001, pp. 187-197.
Hill, J., Shaw, B. and Hislop, H. 2006. A Zero Waste UK. Institute for public policy research
and green alliance.
House of Commons; Refuse collection. Communities and local government committee. Fifth
report of session 2006-07 volume ll: written evidence. Pp. 82
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www.northlincs.gov.uk/NR/...92B2.../Appendix2Legislation2.pdf (date accessed 4th
Phillips, P., Clarkson, P. and Barnes, N. 2002. A UK county sustainable waste management
program. International Journal of Environment and Sustainable Development, Vol. 1, No. 1,
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Rostron, J., 2008. The law and regulation of waste in United Kingdom: A review.
Environmental quality management. Pp. 50.
Vehlow. J., Bergfeldt, B., Visser, R. and Wilen, C. 2007. European Union waste management
strategy and the importance of biogenic Waste. J Mater Cycles Waste Management 9:130–