England risks missing recycling targets, warn MPs

22 October 2014

The Government must act to increase recycling rates across England by 2020, say MPs today in a report of an inquiry triggered by Defra’s decision to step back from areas of waste management.

MPs also call on Government to ensure that only genuinely residual waste is sent to energy-from-waste plants and to do more to encourage the use of heat outputs from such facilities to improve the overall energy efficiency of this waste management method.

 Launching a report on Waste management in England, the Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Miss Anne McIntosh said:

"Defra ‘stepped back’ from waste management at a time when we need both a more ambitious approach to waste management and stronger Government leadership to drive up static recycling rates in England and make better use of energy recovery options such as local heating for homes. Ministers must now show that waste policy remains an important priority."  

Waste as a resource 

Miss McIntosh added “Millions of tonnes of waste are thrown away every year, which is bad for the economy and the environment.” The Committee recognises the benefits of valuing waste as a resource and calls for sustainable waste and resource management to play a key role in achieving Defra’s Coalition priority to improve the environment.

Recycling and best practice

The Committee urges Defra to achieve the highest possible recycling rates. MPs argue that local authorities should remain responsible for resolving specific challenges and barriers faced at a local level, but call on Defra to promote best practice at a national level.

"On a household level there is too much confusion about what can or can’t be recycled—and very little confidence in the process” explains Miss McIntosh. “Communication must improve and be tailored to local circumstances, but Defra should provide support at a national level—particularly in relation to common issues and problems."

Energy from waste

The Committee calls for clear guidance from Defra on how much waste treatment capacity is needed in England to gain an optimal balance between the export of refuse-derived fuel and local treatment.

"MPs support the use of anaerobic digestion for processing waste, but not for use with purpose-grown crops. The Committee also warns that more work is needed to address the issues surrounding separate food waste collections. “Too much food waste is still sent to landfill, but separate food waste collections can be disproportionately expensive and difficult to implement in practice” said Miss Anne McIntosh. “The Government must find practical ways to divert more food waste out of the residual stream but in ways that suit local circumstances." 

MPs also call on the Government take action to curb the frequent occurrence of fires at waste management sites.

Further information

Image: iStockphoto

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