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Landfill Directive

Volume 448: debated on Wednesday 28 June 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) what percentage of the biodegradable waste required to meet the first EU Landfill Directive has been diverted from landfill in the UK; (78529)

(2) whether local authorities will be financially liable for the UK’s compliance in meeting the EU Landfill Directive’s targets.

Article 5(2) of the EC Landfill Directive sets three target years (2006, 2009 and 2016) by which member states must reduce the amount of biodegradable municipal waste sent to landfill in proportion to the amount produced in 1995.

The directive also allows member states which landfilled over 80 per cent. of their municipal waste in 1995 to postpone the targets by up to four years. The Government have informed the European Commission of their intention to make use of this four-year derogation, which means the target years for the UK are 2010, 2013 and 2020.

The UK target for 2010 is to reduce biodegradable municipal waste landfilled to no more than 75 per cent. of that produced in 1995. For England, this equates to 11.2 million tones in 2010. It is estimated that in 2003-04, around 14.7 million tonnes was disposed of in this way, with a provisional estimate of a further reduction to around 13.9 million tonnes in 2004-05 (i.e. 124 per cent. of the 2010 target).

In preparation to the first 2010 target year, the UK have already taken steps to reduce the amount of waste being sent to landfill. The Landfill Allowance Trading Scheme (LATS), was launched in April 2005, and is one of the Government’s key measures to encourage progressive reductions in the amount of biodegradable municipal waste that disposal authorities are able to send to landfill sites.

Should any waste disposal authority have landfilled more waste than it holds allowances for, it can use the sixth month reconciliation period (from March to the end of September), to trade, borrow or bank allowances to manage their liabilities. Any waste disposal authority which has landfilled biodegradable municipal waste in excess of the allowances it holds at the end of the reconciliation period will be liable to a financial penalty of £150 per tonne (according to section 9(2) of the Waste and Emissions Trading Act 2003).

The LATS regulations also provide for supplementary penalties (in addition to any penalties for exceeding allowances) that are proportional to (a) any fines imposed on the UK in respect of obligations under the Landfill Directive and (b) the amount by which an authority exceeds its allowance in a Landfill Directive target year, or subsequent scheme years following Landfill Directive target years.

Due to the nature of a tradable allowances scheme, it is not possible to assess accurately now whether any waste disposal authority is likely to landfill biodegradable municipal waste in excess to that which it holds allowances for until the Environment Agency has completed the reconciliation process for the LATS year 2005-06, expected by the end of September.