Landfill sites that are in use at the moment are nearly full and there are very few areas available in Wales that are suitable for new landfill sites.
Historically this has been the case, but this will not be the case for very much longer. In Europe landfill tax is £40 per tonne and this will become commonplace in the UK soon. By treating waste to produce electricity, waste becomes a valuable resource.
There are a number of options available. We have to turn waste into a resource. The priority is set through the waste hierarchy set by Government, reduce, reuse, recycle and compost and then recover value from what cannot be reused or recycled.
Everyone can make a difference when it comes to waste issues. It is essential to reduce waste growth and everyone can reduce the amount of waste they produce. With the waste that is generated reuse what is practical and then try to recycle and compost as much waste as possible using the Council schemes that have been developed for you. Once recycling and composting has been maximised, a solution has to be found for the remaining waste. It is important that the public take an interest in this issue, as this problem will not go away.
Landfill capacity in Wales is fast running out and it is widely recognised that this is not a sustainable option. The full WRATE carbon footprint assessment shows that managing residual waste through landfill alone generates the highest carbon impact.
When waste decomposes in landfill in the absence of air, methane is produced which is one of the main contributing factors of climate change. Although landfill regulations state that the methane should be collected to generate energy, the collection rate is at best only 10%.
Residual waste treatment reduces the need for landfill. Although there are residues from the variety of treatment options, the amount of waste sent to landfill will significantly reduce.
‘European experience illustrates that recovery of energy from residual waste (including by incineration) is compatible with high recycling rates. Therefore both incineration and Advanced Thermal Treatment can form part of an overall waste management strategy but not at the expense of waste reduction and recycling.
'Mainland Europe, Denmark and the Netherlands divert the most waste from landfill, achieving the highest recycling rates but have a high reliance on incineration to deal with residual waste.’ (Defra New Technologies Supporter Programme 2007).
The Welsh Assembly Government is satisfied that treatment of residual waste by high efficiency EFW facilities (where practical producing electricity and/or heat through associated Combined Heat & Power ("CHP") or heat only systems), is the best option for Wales in terms of its sustainable development obligations and reducing the impact of waste management activities on climate change.
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“The UK’s capacity to recover valuable energy from its waste is under-developed. Rapid planning and commissioning of appropriate plants and technologies is needed to support three vital policy areas: meeting tough landfill diversion targets, combating climate change and meeting energy demand though secure and sustainable supply. The Chartered Institute for Waste Management (CIWM) is urging government to recognise the important contribution of energy from waste in addressing these issues and to take urgent practical steps to support its expansion.” (CIWM (2006) CIWM Position statement Energy recovery from waste, February 2006).
The Agency believes we need to minimise the amount of waste produced. Recycling, composting and residual waste treatment are all management options that society will need to consider using in order to create sustainable waste management strategies to manage the mountain of waste we are creating.
Energy from waste is an important suite of technologies, with the ability to provide both renewable energy and a solution to the growing problems of waste management. (UKTI Publications: Energy from waste, a guide to opportunities in the UK)
Many UK authorities are addressing the problem of residual waste. Energy from Waste and other energy recovery processes have been used extensively in Europe and Scandinavia for some time. Denmark, the Netherlands, France and Sweden treat at least 25% of waste through energy from waste schemes. Mechanical Biological Treatment is also used extensively in Europe, with plants in Germany, Italy and Austria and the technology is becoming more popular in the UK.
No, each authority is committed to recycling and composting as much waste as possible. There has been massive investment by each authority to develop kerbside collection schemes and to make recycling and composting as accessible as possible to all. Prosiect Gwyrdd is looking at a solution to residual waste, after recycling and composting has been maximised in each area.