Under the EU landfill Directive, member states have to cut the amount of biodegradable municipal waste (BMW) they landfill by 25% of 1995 levels by 2010, 50% by 2013 and 65% by 2020.
To meet the targets, the UK has set up the landfill allowance trading scheme (LATS) which sets individual waste disposal authorities targets to reduce the landfill of biodegradable waste.
The Audit Commission’s report examines whether English authorities can meet their EU targets and is based on survey responses from just under half of all WDAs – accounting for 60% of England’s municipal waste.
The 2010 target will be met thanks to councils increasing levels of recycling and composting, it says. “The targets for 2013 and 2020 are also achievable, even if waste grows by more than councils anticipate or recycling improves less,” it adds.
Most councils assume waste arisings will grow by 1% a year to 2013, and that they will recycle or compost some 42% of all their biodegradable waste by then. However, the Commission says England will meet its 2013 target even if waste grows by 2% and only 40% of biodegradable waste is recycled or composted. This is due to the development of waste treatment infrastructure like incinerators.
The 2013 target will only be missed if new waste treatment infrastructure is delayed, the commission says – a possibility if planning permissions for incinerators are opposed. If plans are delayed by a year, England will miss the target by 50,000 tonnes, leading to an EU fine of £10 million. If plans are delayed by two years, the overrun will be 900,000 tonnes, leading to a £140 million fine.