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[GreenYes] Zero Waste Declaration July 2006 Zero Waste Alliance (UK) review and comment

Zero Waste Declaration July 2006
In July 2002 the Zero Waste Charter was launched at the House of Commons,
and has since received wide national and international backing. It argued that
there was a growing environmental imperative for the reduction, recycling and
composting of waste to reduce:
* the dangers to human health of incinerators and landfills,
* CO2 emissions,
* the pressure on virgin forests, on minerals and on rapidly degrading
The 10 point charter set out a strategy for moving to Zero Waste in the UK,
notably by:
* maximising the recycling of dustbin and of bulky waste,
* introducing the doorstep collection of organic waste and a
composting infrastructure
* banning the thermal treatment of mixed waste and the landfilling of
untreated biological waste
* limiting waste disposal authorities to 10 year contracts to ensure
flexible facilities to complement the growth of recycling and composting
* introducing a disposal tax and earmarking its proceeds to promote
Zero Waste.
* accelerating and extending producer responsibility legislation
After the launch of the Charter, the Governmentâs Strategy Unit supported
many of the principles of the Charter. It led to a radical increase in the
landfill tax. It supported recycling and composting, secured funding for WRAP,
and for the first time recommended Mechanical and Biological Treatment as an
alternative to incineration and landfill as a means of handling residual waste.

But it left a bridge half built. And policy has in the meantime slipped
back to its previous groove: timid on targets, and a promoter of incineration.

Climate change will not be countered by limited ambition. Leading countries
in Europe are now recycling and composting 65% of their municipal waste. The
UK remains a straggler. Recycling has doubled in four years, but still stands
at no more than 23% in 2005. DEFRAâs current review proposes a maximum
target of 50% by 2020, a level that the UKâs best authorities are already
meeting. This sets the bar too low. It offers too little, too late.
Nor will the radical reduction of CO2 emissions be achieved by measures
which hold back recycling and composting and promote incineration. Yet this has
been the consistent thread of Government policy since the Strategy Unit
* The UK government has become notorious in Europe for their
opposition to the Bio Waste directive within the EU, and has succeeded in having it
* The Animal By Products Order has set levels of treatment way beyond
those operating in the rest of the EU, raising the cost and discouraging the
composting of domestic and commercial food waste
* The Government has been active in pressing the EU Commission to
redefine incineration as a form of recovery rather than disposal
* Funds for PFI waste disposal contracts have been increased, thus
encouraging large scale, capital intensive disposal technologies and 20-25 year
* The Government has proposed long term national targets for
incineration, but only modest short term recycling and composting targets for
individual local authorities (a maximum of 30% for 2007/8). It has thereby removed a
constraint on disposal authorities from crowding out recycling and composting
by the construction of large scale incinerators.
* The escalating landfill tax coupled with LATS, without graduated
taxes on other forms of disposal, encourages a switch from landfill to other
disposal options rather than the maximisation of recycling and composting.
* DEFRA has substituted a tick box sustainability appraisal for the
Best Practical Environmental Option, which has facilitated proposals for
incineration at public enquiries
* The DTI has approved the proposal for a giant incinerator at
Belvedere in East London (upto 800,000 tonnes, making it the largest incinerator in
Europe), in spite of massive local opposition. It has thereby created a long
term appetite for recyclable paper and plastic from Greater London, and at
the same time provided a stimulus to proposals for similar giant schemes
throughout the country, in the context of Government policy to more than treble
incinerator capacity.
DEFRAâs current Review is strong on the rhetoric of recycling, but it fails
to will the means. It remains a charter for incineration not for Zero Waste.
It argues for incineration as a means of countering climate change on two
grounds: that it replaces methane producing landfill, and that it substitutes
carbon neutral electricity production for fossil fuel power stations. _[1]_
But it under-estimates:
* The loss of stored up energy embodied in recyclable materials
prematurely incinerated (notably paper, stabilised organic waste and plastic).
And it takes no account of:
* the capture of methane from landfill, which at the high rates
assumed elsewhere by DEFRA makes landfill broadly comparable in terms of net CO2
emissions to electricity-only incineration._[2]_
* the fact that electricity-only incinerators generate 33% more fossil
CO2 than the gas fired power stations that they would replace. _[3]_
* the sequestration of carbon in depleting soils through the
application of compost, or stabilised residues from MBT plants.
* the lifecycle energy costs involved (and the waste generated) in the
production of the incinerators themselves
Incinerators are producers of brown energy not green. They do not reduce
green house gas emissions but increase them, both because of the overall CO2
emissions at their strikingly low current levels of efficiency of 25% or less,
and because their destruction of the âgrey energyâ embodied in the materials
they burn increases the need for new energy intensive virgin materials.
The playing field of waste management policy â both in terms of the
structure of incentives and the process of decisions on disposal â is tilted towards
incineration. Whereas stabilised residues from MBT that are landfilled are
subject to the full landfill tax, bottom ash from incinerators is classed as
inert, and charged only Â2 a ton.
Far from facing a graduated tax as a means of disposal, incinerators receive
more Government funding, and have greater access to private finance, than
recycling or composting. Accordingly they remain the technologies of choice
for disposal authorities which the Government have left with the decisive
institutional power in municipal waste management._[4]_
Even where, because of public opposition, disposal authorities have fought
shy of incineration or its modern variants pyrolysis and gasification, they
have continued to negotiate 20-25 year inflexible contracts, incorporating
Mechanical and Biological Treatment (MBT) plants, that produce ârefuse-derived
fuelâ as a feedstock. They have made MBT, a potentially more flexible means of
stabilising residual organic waste and suitable for the transition to Zero
Waste, into a processing arm for incineration, and a barrier rather than a
support to Zero Waste strategies.
Zero Waste policies have had to swim against the institutional and policy
tide, rather than being carried along by it. The Zero Waste Alliance therefore
urges the Government and local authorities, to re-orient their policies in
the direction of Zero Waste, in line with leading regional and national
governments overseas, and further to the 10 points of the original charter, adopt
the following specific measures:
* Set long terms recycling and composting targets of 60% for all local
authorities by 2015, along with waste minimisation targets, to prevent their
crowding out by local and regional long term disposal contracts
* Press the EU to introduce the Bio Waste Directive, and its
requirement for kerbside kitchen waste collections in all cities, towns and villages
with over 1,500 population
* Switch the government subsidy of PFI schemes to the start up costs
of food waste collection, as part of the Treasuryâs forthcoming Comprehensive
Spending Review
* Extend the grant of carbon credits to recycling and composting to
reflect their impact on the reduction of CO2 emissions from the production of
virgin materials
* Recognise incineration as a form of disposal rather than recovery,
in line with the EU Waste Framework Directive and rulings of the European
Court of Justice
* Fund a major research programme to identify the hazards of nano
particles and particulate aerosols that arise from the burning of mixed waste
* Introduce an incineration tax of at least Â12 per tonne, and Â6 for
incinerators incorporating CHP (in line with the findings of the Customs and
Excise Review Study)_[5]_ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftn5)
* Charge incinerator bottom ash at the full level of landfill tax,
rather than the Â2 a tonne which it currently enjoys by virtue of its
unwarranted classification as inert waste, while reducing the landfill tax to Â6 a
tonne for bio-degradable waste stabilised to EU recognised levels.
* Require compulsory insurance against future pollution and health
claims for all disposal and recovery facilities
* Re-introduce BPEO as a planning criteria for waste applications
The past four years have not been wasted. The ground for a radical increase
in recycling and composting is now prepared. St Edmundsbury has become the
first council to pass the 50% recycling and composting target. The leading
continental and North American authorities are now reaching 75%. They mark the
path to Zero Waste.
The imperative of climate change has, too, at last been unequivocally
recognised by scientists, by the media and now by all major political parties. But
it has yet to be reflected in waste policy. In spite of the evidence that
recycling and composting lead to major CO2 savings relative to incineration and
landfill - WRAP estimates the savings of current levels of recycling and
composting at 10-15 million tonnes of carbon equivalent per year_[6]_
(aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftn6) â and in spite of its higher CO2 emissions
relative to gas fired electricity generation, the Government is still promoting
electricity-only incineration as a source of green energy.
What is required is return to the boldness of the Strategy Unitâs policy,
and a shift of finance and incentives towards composting and recycling. Climate
Change policy calls for it. The Government should respect the evidence, free
itself from the disposal centred traditional waste industry, and complete
the work that was left half finished after the Strategy Unitâs Review.
Zero Waste Alliance
11th July 2006


_[1]_ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftnref1) Defra (2006) Review of
Englandâs Waste Strategy: A Consultation Document, February 2006. Its wording
is: ÂâEfW reduces emissions of greenhouse gases in two ways: because the
wastes could otherwise go to landfill and generate methane; and because emissions
from the biomass fraction of the waste, which are carbon-neutral, are likely
to replace those from fossil generation.â p.60

_[2]_ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftnref2) Eunomia, A Changing
Climate for Energy from Waste, Friends of the Earth, May 2006.

_[3]_ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftnref3) Eunomia, op.cit. By 2020
forecast advances in power station technology and the growing proportion of
plastic in residual waste means that energy only incinerators will be 78% worse
than gas power stations, and broadly comparable even to new or refitted coal
power stations. The Eunomia report contains a valuable critique of the ERM
Report for DEFRA which has been used to justify the Governmentâs incinerator
policy, see pp.74 sq. and ERM (2006) Impact of Energy from Waste and Recycling
Policy on UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Final Report for Defra, January 2006.

_[4]_ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftnref4) DEFRAâs lack of clarity on
MBT residues and composting requirements is a further discouragement to
disposal authorities seeking an alternative to incineration.

_[5]_ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftnref5) HM Customs & Excise (2004)
Combining the Governmentâs Two Health and Environment Studies to Calculate
Estimates for the External Costs of Landfill and Incineration, December 2004

_[6]_ (aoldb://mail/write/template.htm#_ftnref6) WRAP, Environmental
Benefits of Recycling. An international review of life cycle comparisons for key
materials in the UK recycling sector, May 2006. The study was based on a
comparative review of 55 international life cycle studies, assessing 200 scenarios.

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