Recycled waste could end up in landfill sites, warns watchdog

• Government failing to provide enough facilities
• Taxpayers could face multimillion-pound fines

Millions of people who recycle their rubbish could find it becomes a futile exercise due to the government's failure to provide enough facilities to prevent it from being dumped in landfill sites, a report from a Whitehall watchdog warns today.

Homeowners and tenants could also have to foot the bill for fines totalling hundreds of millions of pounds because their council has fallen behind in developing recycling schemes. The EU has set a deadline of 2013 to halve dumping in landfill sites; the government faces fines if it misses the target and will pass this on to councils.

The National Audit Office says there is little chance of completing a programme of building incinerators and large-scale recycling schemes by 2013.

The government had tried to fund the programme by raising cash from banks under the private finance initiative, but many of the schemes can no longer get money because of the credit crunch.

Since many involve building large incinerators, they are also running into opposition from residents, resulting in an average delay of more than 19 months in obtaining planning permission. It can take between five and nine years for a new plant to come on stream.

According to the auditors, only two big waste treatment plants in England have come on stream since the programme was launched in 1999 and another nine projects have been approved. A further 18 are in the pipeline.

The two completed schemes are in Leicester and east London. Other schemes for incinerators planned in 2003 and 2006 have not even started; they include Newhaven in East Sussex, Nottinghamshire and Cornwall.

The report says: "England is likely to meet its 2010 landfill reduction targets but to meet the 2013 target the Department [for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] will need to reduce substantially the time taken to procure projects and bring them into operation ... It will not be met if there continue to be programme delays or the infrastructure built does not work as efficiently as expected."

Edward Leigh, Tory chairman of the Commons public accounts committee, said: "The department sat on its hands for four years after the EU in 1999 set England a testing timetable for reducing the amount of biodegradable rubbish sent to landfill."

Councils also warned that they faced problems in meeting targets. Paul Bettison, chairman of the Local Government Association environment board, said: "Councils are pulling out the stops to deliver projects that will deal with waste. But the reality is the government has hit the council tax payer with a £1.5bn bill over the next three years by going back on its undertaking to refund money raised through landfill tax to local authorities. This is cash that could be used to build the facilities that are needed to divert waste away from landfill."

Contributor

David Hencke, Westminster correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

UK set to miss EU waste targets

The UK faces fines of up to £180m a year from the European Union, because it is likely to miss targets for reducing the amount of waste that is tipped into landfill sites, the National Audit Office warned today.

Matt Weaver

26, Jul, 2006 @11:09 AM

Miliband unveils plan to reward recyclers while making wasteful households pay

· Councils could offer cash rewards to greenest homes
· Measures designed to tackle landfill mountain

Tania Branigan and John Vidal

25, May, 2007 @2:14 PM

Fortnightly rubbish collection means more recycling, says government
· System could save taxpayer £22m in landfill fees
· Problems expected in more built-up areas

John Vidal, environment editor

25, Apr, 2007 @11:08 PM

Article image
Caroline Spelman calls for 'zero-waste' society to end landfill
In a waste strategy review, the new environment secretary says each local council should develop its own recycling scheme

Press Association

15, Jun, 2010 @2:48 PM

Response: We have barely begun to wake up to the problem of waste

Response: Policy is driven by the marketisation of waste, not environmental awareness, says Martin O'Brien

Martin O'Brien

01, Jul, 2008 @11:01 PM

Article image
Recycled waste could be stored on MoD bases

Sites are desperately being sought to house the UK's mountain of recyclable rubbish

Mark Townsend

16, Nov, 2008 @12:01 AM

Environment: Tories plan vouchers to reward people who recycle more waste

Households will be rewarded with vouchers worth up to £360 a year in American-style recycling scheme

Allegra Stratton, political correspondent

08, Jul, 2008 @11:01 PM

Article image
London's rubbish could power 2m homes, report says
• London assembly study says capital produces enough waste to fill Canary Wharf skyscraper every eight days
• Boris Johnson considering plans

Hélène Mulholland and agencies

28, Oct, 2009 @2:48 PM

Article image
UK's plastic waste may be dumped overseas instead of recycled
Millions of tons of plastic sent abroad for recycling may be being dumped in landfill

Nazia Parveen North of England correspondent

22, Jul, 2018 @11:01 PM

Article image
UK councils could be required to recycle 70% of waste by 2030
Proposals from European commission would require a significant increase in the proportion of UK waste diverted from landfill

Fiona Harvey, environment correspondent

02, Jul, 2014 @5:04 PM