Achieving a 0% landfill figure

When disposing of waste into various waste streams, in 2011, new guidelines stipulated that organisations should apply a waste hierarchy system when dealing with, and disposing of waste. These rules suggest that all organisations who deal with waste should dispose of it in an environmentally friendly way.

As part of Scotland’s Zero Waste Regulations initiative, Scotland has placed a landfill ban on municipal biodegradable waste by 2020. As the first ban of its kind, England and Northern Ireland may follow suit shortly after this year.

Despite the UK’s efforts to cut food waste by 5% before 2016, food waste actually rose by 4.4% between 2012 and 2015. Now, the question still remains, how can the UK achieve a 0% rate of waste going to landfill? Providers of skip collection for domestic and commercial waste, Reconomy explore whether this proposal can ever be achieved.

Ensuring a reduction in fly-tipping

Before organisations choose to recycle their waste ethically, as opposed to disposing waste in landfill sites, organisations need to be aware of the growing problem of fly-tipping. Many premises are now being rented for the sole purpose of fly-tipping, which results in illegal activity that spreads the contamination of hazardous materials such as asbestos.

If businesses and organisations are to contribute towards a 0% landfill target in the UK, then the buildings that they rent to third parties need to be monitored so that fly-tipping cannot occur, and the relevant insurance needs to be obtained so that if this does occur, the clean-up operation can be dealt with effectively.

Defining 0% waste

So that none of a business’ current waste goes to landfill, simply stated, a zero-waste target ensures that all waste is recycled. Instead, these materials are recycled in different ways. The materials, and the method of recycling, are as follows:

  • Cardboard. This is recycled in a paper mill.
  • Glass. This is melted down and then created into new glass products and containers.
  • Plastic. This is recycled and made into new packaging.
  • Food. This waste is sent to be used as compost.

In processes such as incineration and gasification – all waste streams that cannot be recycled are recovered as energy in these ways.

Benefitting from a 0% landfill target

As well as the fees paid to contractors, landfill tax now costs £80 per tonne of waste. This drives the incentive for businesses to reduce their waste as not only does it benefit the environment, it also saves money.

Taxation appears to be working, as between 2012 and 2014, the total amount of commercial and industrial waste that was produced in the UK was reduced by over 5 million tonnes, which is a reduction of 15% in two years. Moving forward, this appears to be a reliable way of making sure landfill waste is reduced. Increasing taxes further may help to reduce total landfill waste levels even further.

If organisations seek to reduce their landfill waste further, the could be set to gain the following benefits:

  • Meeting legal requirements. Organisations need to ensure that they are contributing a percentage of their waste away from landfill, if they aren’t, they may not be meeting legal requirements.
  • Positive PR opportunities. Businesses who show themselves to be environmentally friendly will earn more respect and public appeal – helping them to increase their customer base and improve their profits.
  • Improved environmental performance. By ensuring that waste is recycled, organisations can become responsible for positive change by reducing the rate and speed of climate change.
  • Competitive edge. If an organisation is recycling more than their main competitors, then that organisation is at an advantage in terms of lower landfill tax rates – and public reputation.

Will this target ever be achievable?

The desire for large-scale organisations to have 0% of their waste go to landfill is more of a philosophy as opposed to a reality. For businesses, it is a benchmark to work towards.

As a longer-term ambition – the industrial processes, materials, business models, regulations and public infrastructures do not yet exist for this to be workable. This is, however, a two-way solution – as businesses need to eliminate their waste that comes from suppliers – whilst making sure that waste isn’t produced during manufacturing and when products and services are passed onto customers and clients.

Even during the process of energy recovery – such as incineration – waste in the form of ash is also created. Clearly, more needs to be done to innovate these processes for the future so that 0% landfill rates can be achieved in this lifetime.

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