Landfill: To Ban or Not to Ban

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A ban on sending unsorted waste to landfill could save the UK around £2.1 billion by 2024, according to the Waste and Resources Action Programme's (WRAP) latest report into the impact of introducing landfill bans.

Written by environmental consultants, Eunomia Research & Consulting, the report - 'Landfill Bans: Feasibility Research' - is an update to an earlier 2010 publication and has been compiled using a revised model of landfilling.

According to WRAP the study aimed to discover whether the costs and benefits of specific landfill bans and restrictions justify their use. Further goals were to understand how landfill bans or restrictions could help meet the EU Landfill Directive for biodegradable municipal waste and increase business opportunities.

Restrictions Vs Bans

Following an initial consideration of available options, the report's authors said that two types of material-based policy were taken forward for the cost benefit analysis:

  • A 'restriction' whereby any form of 'sorting' of the effected materials would be considered sufficient for those types of materials to be restricted from landfill as far as is able to be known and with carriers required to testify to such processing.
  • A 'ban on unsorted waste' whereby different types of waste are totally diverted from landfill. This measure would be supported by a defined 'requirement to sort', setting out minimum requirements to apply irrespective of the destination of residual waste.

Savings by material

The report found that the depending on how the biogas produced by the processing of food waste is used, a landfill restriction could offer savings of up to £92 million between 2009 and 2024 - but could cost an additional £290 million. However, under a ban the equivalent range is between £340 million and £1.3 billion in savings.

For paper and card the study found that the potential savings from restrictions could result in a net benefit to society of some £130 million, while a total ban could bring that to £720 million. Likewise, for metals the figure rises from £75 million for a restriction to a possible £800 million for a ban and for textiles the figures suggest a £110 million saving to society for a restriction and £250 million for a ban.

Interestingly, for wood waste the report said that a landfill restriction for could result in net benefits to society of £48 million, reducing to £21 million under a ban, while a restriction on the landfilling of green waste offers zero potential savings and a ban a net cost to society of up to £84 million.

For plastics the cost benefit analysis as modeled by the research suggests that a landfill restriction could result in net costs to society of £170 million, and a ban on unsorted waste could increase that to £480 million over the same period. When looking at the impact for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) the report claimed that a restriction could result in a net cost to society of £20 million and a ban could increase this to £200 million.

Recommendations

The report concluded that the climate change benefits and resource efficiency gains are likely to be greatest where a ban on landfilling unsorted waste is implemented.

According to the authors, if all materials considered in the report are within the scope of a ban on unsorted waste, the median value of the net benefit to society is estimated at £910 million between 2009 and 2024 and the median value of greenhouse gas savings over the same period is estimated at 120 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent.

The report concluded that if only those materials for which there are net social benefits are considered, the median value of GHG savings achieved over the period is estimated at around 73 million tonnes CO2 equivalent. The median value of the net benefit to society from a ban on unsorted waste covering these materials is estimated at £2.1 billion.

However, the authors also concluded that few of the material based measures could be implemented in such a way that their enforcement was intended to be meaningful in a period of any less than five to seven years and that this could be even longer for some materials, such as biodegradable wastes which account for 10 times as much material as any other measure.

The report also cautioned that any ban on unsorted waste to landfill should be accompanied by an equivalent measure covering all residual waste treatments so that the requirement is not 'sidestepped'.


Smart Material Management about More than Just Waste

Worldwide 62 billion tonnes of natural resources including minerals, wood, metals, fossil and biomass fuels, and construction material are extracted each year with around 20% of that ending up as waste, according to a new report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Historically, the report said that governments have focused on managing waste as a means of managing the impact of materials on the environment. However, it argues that while much success has been achieved, research has shown that waste management is not the key to controlling material flows.

The OECD said that a more complete approach to materials management, known as Sustainable Materials Management (SMM), is increasingly recognised as a policy approach that can contribute to green growth.

The report explained that the policy principles of SMM are the preservation of natural capital, the life-cycle perspective, the use of the full range of policy instruments and a multi-stakeholder approach.

The organisation said that one of the main challenges of the SMM approach is to effectively address the environmental impacts that can occur along the life-cycle of materials, which frequently extends across political and geographic borders and involves a multitude of different economic actors.

A key lesson for policy makers highlighted in the report is that SMM will require greater coherence of policies which requires co-operation across different parts of government, which is not current practice. SMM also requires enhanced partnerships between economic actors as well as an international perspective and further efforts for capacity development.


US Demand for Recycled
Plastics to Rise 5.9% PA to 2016

Demand in the U.S. for post-consumer recycled plastics is forecast to rise 5.9% per year to 1.54 million tones in 2016, according to a report by market analysts, Freedonia.

The report found that gains will be driven by a number of factors, including a growing emphasis on sustainability, advancements in processing and sorting technologies, and an improved collection infrastructure and continued support by federal, state, and local governments for recycling efforts.

However, the authors cautioned that the overall rate of plastic recycling in the U.S. will remain relatively low at around 6.5% of total plastic demand in 2016, and that the industry faces a number of challenges.

Due to a lack of collection and economically viable processing capability, the report said that recycling in several major plastic markets, including construction products, motor vehicles and packaging film remains minimal.

According to the analysts exports, particularly to China, siphon off a large portion of plastic scrap and much of what is processed domestically has high levels of contamination. As a result, only 53% of the plastic collected for recycling makes its way into manufactured products in the U.S. market.

In Brief

Bridge Made from Recycled Plastics in California

A bridge in Santa Rosa Valley, California has become the first on the West Coast of the U.S. to have both its superstructure and fencing made of recycled plastic.

The 25 foot (7.5 metre) bridge, designed for both pedestrians and horses has been made from STRUXURE™, a recycled plastic material developed by New Providence, New Jersey based AXION International Holdings.


Sims Offloads Arizona Scrap Assets

Sims Metal Management has sold its Arizona scrap metal recycling assets to SA Recycling - a joint venture owned equally by Sims and Adams Steel.

The company said that the sale was settled for a cash price of $35 million and principally involves the real property related assets of the two scrap metal recycling facilities located in Phoenix and Tucson.

Sims will retain the working capital assets of the Arizona business which it will monetise for around a further $15 million.

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