Government must ‘end tsunami of unecological waste’, says NLWA

Following the publication of the National Infrastructure Commission’s (NIC) baseline report, the North London Waste Authority (NLWA) is urging the UK Government to urgently implement measures to reduce unsustainable consumption, ending the ‘tsunami of unecological waste’.

The NIC’s Second National Infrastructure Assessment Baseline Report states that waste must be reduced and recycling increased if the UK is to reach net-zero by 2050. The NLWA has stated that it welcomes the report’s findings and recommendations, noting that it is the unsustainable consumption of products – causing significant volumes of sometimes impossible-to-recycle waste – that needs urgent attention.

LandfillIn line with the report’s findings, the NLWA centres unsustainable consumption as a significant factor in the Climate Emergency and the decline of the natural environment, calling on Government and industry to implement ‘systemic change’.

The waste authority is urging the Government to make recycling compulsory, to ban many more unecological products such as single-use, unrecyclable plastics, and to significantly reduce the dumping of waste in landfill, amongst a raft of other urgent measures. The NLWA states that it also wants to see a deposit return scheme (DRS) introduced for plastic and glass bottles as soon as possible, alongside the expansion of extended producer responsibility (EPR) legislation to include products as well as packaging. Inbuilt obsolescence, the waste authority asserts, must be prohibited at source, with repair and reuse incentivised through tax break schemes or similar.

Whilst the NIC’s report states that, ‘greenhouse gas emissions from waste have begun to rise since 2014 due to incineration for energy generation’, the NLWA has highlighted the need to prioritise the reduction of emissions from landfill. Shipping waste to landfill or abroad, the waste authority maintains, causes ‘far higher greenhouse gas emissions than its use as a resource to generate electricity and heat in the UK’. The organisation also adds that modern energy-from-waste (EfW) facilities can also ‘provide a reliable source of local, low-carbon emissions’. The future installation of carbon capture and storage in new facilities, the NLWA states, could minimise EfW-related emissions.

The NLWA has also welcomed the report’s recommendation that ‘the waste sector must support the move to a circular economy’, stating that this aligns with the waste authority’s ‘guiding principles’. The organisation notes that at present, local authorities do not have the necessary powers to make the systemic changes required to shift to a circular economy. Government, the NLWA states, must therefore force businesses to design out waste, and ensure products are repairable and easily dismantled at end-of-life, ensuring those materials can be easily reused.

Cllr Clyde Loakes, NLWA’s Chair, said: “It was deeply depressing that consumption and waste were barely on the agenda at COP26, so we greatly welcome the Commission recognising that the UK must urgently recycle more and produce less waste to reach net zero.

“Humanity is facing interlinked tipping points: the Climate Emergency, pervasive pollution in all its forms, and the ravaging of nature’s biodiversity, which has in great part been caused by unsustainable consumption.

“Government, business, and individuals finally must wake up to the link between our never-ending consumption of unecological yet convenient stuff and the existential crises all of us now face. What needs to be urgently understood is that there is much to be gained, if as a nation, we seize the potential of waste to help boost the UK economy whilst dealing with its detrimental aspects. We can do this if we begin to utilise waste as a domestic raw material whilst working to eliminate unecological waste and reducing virgin raw material extraction.”

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