Based on a recent report from the Local Government Association in the United Kingdom, Britain as a whole will exhaust landfill space by 2018 unless much more effort is put into increasing recycling rates. Official statistics reveal that the UK is top of the European league when it comes to the volume of garbage that households send to land fill every year.
Occasionally labelled as the dustbin of Europe, Britain puts just under nineteen million tonnes of household rubbish into the ground annually. This figure represents two million more tonnes than Italy, which sends close to sixteen million tonnes of household waste to landfill every year. After that comes Spain and France, which dispose of fifteen and twelve million tonnes respectively.
Landfill Space Running Out Fast
During 2008, approximately fifty seven million tonnes of waste material ended up in rubbish dumps across the UK. With barely 650 million cubic meters of landfill space remaining, those sites will likely be full within eight years at current rubbish disposal rates.
Recycling Saves Landfill Space
While recycling rates in the UK have improved, other countries in Europe are reportedly recycling around twice as much. According to the Local Government Association, unless there is a major change in the way that garbage is disposed of, Britain will be hard pushed to meet European landfill targets.
The 1999 EU landfill directive states that by 2020, the UK must reduce the volume of biodegradable waste going to landfill to no more than 35% of the amount produced in 1995, which translates to just over six million tonnes. Failure to fulfill those targets will lead to substantial penalties for each ‘over quota’ tonne of rubbish that ends up in the ground.
As of April 2010, the landfill tax paid by local authorities increased to GBP 48.00 per tonne with a yearly increase of GBP 8.00 up to 2015. In the event that targets are not achieved, it is estimated that by 2020, penalties in the region of GBP 180 million per year will be imposed on the UK authorities, which will ultimately end up being paid for by taxpayers.
Many local councils in the UK have already achieved or exceeded yearly landfill space targets while others are lagging behind which shows that considerably more has to be done to encourage households and businesses to recycle rather than to simply throw rubbish away, regardless of the consequences.