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A government study on the environmental and health impacts of dealing ...
A government study on the environmental and health impacts of dealing

with household waste is due to be published tomorrow. The study, which

is expected to include landfill, recycling and incineration, was

requested by the Number 10 Strategy Unit in its report Waste Not, Want

Not, November 2002. The report is likely to play a key role in the

future direction of government waste management policies.

The new government study is expected to draw on previous reports

including research carried out for the Community Recycling Network

in 2002, which also considered the impacts of various waste management

processes on the environment and health.

The CRN research found:

. Climate change. In terms of climate change impact, incineration is

worse over a 100 year period than landfill with methane capture;

. Human toxicity. In terms of human toxicity the research suggested

that waste going to landfill was the worst option, the second worst

option was standard incineration.

Friends of the Earth is campaigning for the government to take action

to encourage ways of dealing with our waste that are less harmful to

public health and the environment - and positive action to discourage

more damaging options.

The environmental campaign group wants the government to reduce the

amount of waste generated in the first place, and ensure that far more

is either re-used or recycled. Last week new government figures

revealed that household waste in England increased by 1.1 per cent in

2002/3 (over the previous year) and that only 14.5 per cent of

household waste in England was recycled [1]. This means that the

government is unlikely to reach its target of recycling or composting

at least 25 per cent of household waste by 2005 in England and Wales.

Austria recycles around two thirds of its waste (64%), Belgium

recycles over half (52 %) [2].

The Conservatives introduced a landfill tax (currently£15 a tonne) to

disc ourage the landfilling of waste. But despite calls for action,

Labour has failed to introduce similar measures to discourage

incineration. In fact, incineration is encouraged through tax breaks

and subsidies by up to£11 a tonne because energy is produced from the


Recycling materials saves more energy than incineration, but it does

not receive equivalent subsidy for the energy saved.

The government has refused to move forward on considering an

incineration tax until after the report on health and environmental

impacts of waste management options has been released. If, as seems

likely, the study shows that incineration is a worse option than

recycling, the government will have no reason to delay the

introduction of economic measures to reflect this.


1. Available here.

2. Environmental Signals 2002 - European Environment Agency.

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