A UK landfill site. Photo

Don’t Throw It All Away

3 minutes read

Keeping five key waste materials out of landfill could cut 14.1 million tonnes of CO2

According to a new report from the thinktank Green Alliance, keeping five key waste materials out of landfill and sending them instead for recycling, remanufacturing and reuse could support 47,500 jobs, save £3.8 billion of valuable products being lost to the economy, keep 19 million tonnes of waste out of the ground, and most importantly, cut 14.1 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions per year, equal to the carbon put out by 2.7 million homes.

More jobs, less carbon: why we need landfill bans, just published, illustrates the beneficial employment and carbon impact that banning wood, textiles, electronics, food, and plastics from landfill would have. Reuse, remanufacturing and recycling enable new products to be created out of resources that are currently just being wasted in landfill. Selling these new products would support new skilled jobs. The report illustrates the types of jobs that could be created. They require training and skills comparable to existing UK manufacturing jobs, and reflect a range of middle income salaries.

Dustin Benton, head of resource stewardship at Green Alliance, says,

“The UK is currently burying billions of pounds of value in landfill and losing out on thousands of skilled jobs. A change in policy would improve resource productivity and boost private sector jobs growth at a time when the economy really needs it.

“Landfill is also a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. If we diverted all biodegradable materials to recycling, it would save money and cut CO2 emissions equivalent to those from all the homes in Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds.”

A landfill truck. Photo: Green Alliance
A landfill truck. Photo: Green Alliance

The emissions avoided would go 10% of the way to meeting the UK’s carbon reduction targets, and the jobs created would be in skilled areas of industry such as anaerobic digestion, electronics and plastics remanufacturing, textile recycling.

Unfortunately the future for landfill is not clear. There is very little visibility on the future of landfill tax rates (and associated policy) post 2015/16 – in previous years, the cost of landfill tax was set for up to 5 years in advance, but the Budget again deferred a decision on landfill tax rates. Labour has committed to introduce a food waste landfill ban. It appears that DEFRA is unenthusiatic about landfill bans, and the politicians have not really stepped into the policy vacuum.

You can read the report here:

In the words of the classic Bee Gees’ song “Don’t Throw It All Away” :

“We changed the world we made it ours to hold
But dreams are made for those who really try”

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