JANUARY 2009

Amount of UK waste landfilled declines

Almost one-quarter less waste was sent to landfills in 2007 compared to that in 2001, according to a new report from the Environment Agency. In 2001, the year before the EU Landfill Directive went into effect in England and Wales, around 84 million tons of waste were sent to landfills. Last year, the figure stood at 65 million tons – a drop of 23 percent. The amount of waste landfilled in 2006 was 69 million tons – with the 2007 figure showing a drop of more than 5 percent.

Martin Brocklehurst, head of External Waste Programs at the Environment Agency, said, “Last year, nearly 20 million tons less waste went to landfill when compared to 2001 – which equates to about 500 million wheelie bins.

“This is good news and shows we are recycling more waste every year and heading in the right direction to reduce our dependency on landfills in the long-term.”

Other key findings of the Waste Information report for 2007:

  • More waste is being recovered and recycled – the amount of waste going into composting sites increased by 44 percent and inputs into material recovery facilities were up by 6 percent between 2006 and 2007. Landfilling is down 23 percent and treatment up 53 percent since 2000/01.
  • Landfill capacity has remained about the same year on year – although landfill disposal capacity fell by approximately 10 percent between 2001 and 2006, there was some recovery in 2007. This was due to new inert landfill sites opening.
  • Available landfill capacity remains unevenly distributed – landfill life in London, East of England and the South East is now 3 to 5 years and averages between 5 and 13 years in other regions.
  • Approximately 500 licensed landfill sites were operational in December 2007 – many landfill sites have closed as a result of the stringent requirements of the Landfill Directive.
  • Hazardous waste going to landfills remained about the same between 2006 and 2007 – in 2007 only 850,000 tons of hazardous waste went into landfills compared to 2.3 million in 2004. This was a result of tighter restrictions imposed by the Landfill Directive on what wastes can go to landfills.

Martin Brocklehurst added, “Even during these difficult market conditions, landfills should be the last resort for waste material that we can’t immediately recover or recycle.”