Landfill allowances to be scrapped

25th May 2011

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The UK scheme to reduce the amount of biodegradable waste reaching landfill sites looks set to be written off in the waste policy review when it is published by Defra this summer.

The Landfill Allowance Trading Scheme (LATS) was launched in 2005 to help the UK meet targets, set out in the EU Landfill Directive (1999/31/EC), but it is now widely thought to have reached the end of its usefulness.

“There is a strong likelihood that LATS will be abolished when Defra publishes the outcome of its Waste Policy Review,” confirmed Steve Lee, chief executive of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management. “In line with many local authorities, we have advocated retaining LATS for 2013, the next Directive target year, but not beyond.”

Under the LATS scheme, local waste-disposal authorities are able to trade allowances equating to the amount of biodegradable waste, such as food, paper, cardboard and garden waste, they can send to landfill.

The scheme played an important role in ensuring the UK met its first target of reducing biodegradable waste levels by 2010 to 75% of 1995 levels, but many now argue it is proving to be a hindrance, especially in light of the European Commission’s recent redefinition of municipal waste to include waste from businesses as well as homes.

While Defra has refused to comment on the possible outcomes of the Waste Policy Review, it has been reported that the environment department has written to councils warning them against trading future allowances. In January, Diana Linskey, Defra’s deputy director of waste strategy, told sustainable business community 2degrees that local authorities wanted to provide business waste and recycling services, but that LATS was seen as a “barrier”.

She also confirmed that Defra would be talking to ministers “about whether barriers can be reviewed”.

“LATS has discouraged many local authorities from providing waste collection and recycling schemes for commercial and industrial customers,” agreed Lee. “Furthermore, evidence suggests that landfill tax rather than LATS is proving to be the most influential driver encouraging the diversion of biodegradable waste from landfill into some form of recovery and recycling.”

Merseyside Waste Disposal Authority (MWDA), which bought £3 million of LATS allowances in 2009, has confirmed it has not purchased any for beyond 2012.

“The increased cost of landfill tax is the principal driver for our landfill strategy rather than LATS, which has served its purpose,” said Neil Ferris, MWDA’s director of strategy and development.

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