Resource Use

Around 150 landfill sites have closed since 2008


Landfill sites in Great Britain received less waste last year than ever before, according to new findings by BDS Marketing Research (BDS).

The amount of waste sent for disposal at landfill dropped below 30 million tonnes for the first time last year (down from 31.5 million tonnes in 2011/12), BDS’s ‘Estimated waste volumes deposited at landfill sites in Great Britain’ report found.

The annual report, which calculates the volumes of waste accepted at individual landfill sites in the country, also discovered that 24 landfill sites closed in the 12 months to October 2013, bringing the number of sites that have closed since the recession started in 2008 to 150.

FCC was found to be the largest national landfill company, followed by Viridor and then Biffa (previously, Biffa had been the second largest landfill operator). Together, these three companies are estimated to control around 40 per cent of the market.

According to BDS, the overall drop in landfilling is due to ‘several reasons’, including: the escalating price of Landfill Tax; landfill sites reaching capacity (and not applying for extensions) or coming to the end of their ‘natural life’; and the ‘development of alternative waste treatment options’.

Indeed, BDS reported in March 2013 that that just five per cent of waste infrastructure planning applications submitted during 2012 related to landfill, with over half of planning consents relating to new or extended material recovery facilities (MRFs) and other recycling facilities and transfer stations, while 41 per cent was made up of composting, anaerobic digestion (AD), energy from waste (EfW), household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) and other consents.

Energy from waste ‘overcapacity’

Although a move away from landfilling is to be welcomed, it seems that, increasingly, local authorities are looking to dispose of waste through energy recovery, rather than through recycling.

GAIA (the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives), has warned that the EU’s increasing incineration capacity could damage recycling rates, while environmental consultancy Eunomia released a report in November 2013 that estimated the collective recycling rates for English local authorities in 2020 will be limited to 60 per cent as a result of the long-term commitments they are making to residual waste treatment.

Indeed, recycling rates are already appearing to be ‘levelling off’, with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs warning in November that if recycling rates remain at their current level, England’s recycling rate will be ‘insufficient’ to meet the EU’s target of recycling 50 per cent of household waste by 2020.

Read more about BDS’s ‘Estimated waste volumes deposited at landfill sites in Great Britain’ report.