Waste Disposal

Environment Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 4th February 2004.

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Photo of Anne McIntosh Anne McIntosh Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), Shadow Minister (Transport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the environmental costs and benefits of landfill.

Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley Minister of State (Environment and Agri-Environment), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

All waste disposal options have environmental impacts. Landfill has potentially adverse effects on air and water quality in addition to the local environmental impacts of noise and smell. The most important environmental impact reported in scientific research is the effect on global warming of emissions of greenhouse gases from the landfill of biodegradable waste. Methane (a greenhouse gas 20 times more powerful than carbon dioxide) is generated at all landfill sites accepting biodegradable waste. The contribution of methane emitted from landfills to global warming contributes some 25 per cent. of methane emissions in the UK .

Well operated and regulated landfills nevertheless have a role to play in waste disposal both now and in the future. The EU Landfill Directive (as implemented in England and Wales by the Landfill (England and Wales) Regulations 2002)) sets new standards for the management and engineering of landfill sites to reduce as far as possible the negative environmental impacts and any potential health risk. The Government are committed to reducing the UK's reliance on landfill, which, as well as its negative environmental impacts, makes little practical use of waste and is a missed opportunity to recover value from waste. For these reasons, Waste Strategy 2000 sets out a range of policies to promote the reduction, re-use, recycling and recovery of waste in order to divert it from landfill.

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