What goes around…keeps going around.

Secret footage of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Diverting waste wood from landfill and using it instead for energy production makes mighty good sense.  Apparently, up to 10 million tonnes of waste wood of varying quality is being produced each year in the UK, and the overwhelming bulk of it is simply buried.  Only 0.3 million tonnes of that total is diverted from landfill and used for biomass energy production. Think of the difference even a third or so of that wood not going to landfill and producing energy would make. According to one recent study, several megatonnes of carbon would be saved over the next fifteen years, and economically, the country would benefit net by over £100 million over the same period.  A no-brainer for action, you might think. Stop it going into landfill and set it to work on energy production.  You might expect a lead from Government – they could announce a ban, perhaps; and then diversion would really take off.

Well that’s exactly what the Government is thinking about, it seems from the Waste Review, the conclusions of which were published last month. ‘In 2012,’ they say, ‘we will consult on whether to introduce a restriction on the land filling of wood waste, with the aim of diverting the still substantial tonnages that end up in landfill to better uses up the waste hierarchy and delivering clear environmental benefits’  They’re so keen on getting on with it that they’re committed to looking at other things as well: ‘…building on this we will review the case for restrictions on sending other materials to landfill over the course of the  parliament [i.e. up to 2015], including looking specifically at textiles and biodegradable waste.’

Hurrah! Firm action! But wait a minute, a pedant is tugging at my sleeve. What’s that you say? Waste Strategy 2007?  Ah yes, I’ve found what you’re whining about.  Waste Strategy 2007.  ‘Key policy: – developing collection arrangements and the energy market for wood waste which cannot be reused or recycled’.

Yeah, but they obviously didn’t do anything about it, because, look they’re consulting on it now. Glittering new policy.  Sorry Pedant, didn’t catch that – they did?  You’re right. Here’s the Defra Waste strategy board minutes of January 2010. There’s going to be a consultation ‘on introducing bans on the land filling of recyclable and biodegradable waste in line with the commitment made in the Waste Strategy 2007’

That’s all very well, but nothing happened because only now are they consulting…….. What now? Look this is getting annoying, pedant. Oh, they did consult. You’ve looked out the consultation document:  March 2010 ‘consultation on the introduction of restrictions on the landfilling of certain wastes’ Ooh, and it includes bans on wood, textiles and biodegradable wastes. How interesting pedant. Sorry what was the last thing? The consultation closing date, you say. It’s 10th June 2010. So the responses will be lying around in Defra, awaiting a considered Government response. Good point. But then didn’t something else happen at about that time? Yes, you’re right pedant, the Waste Review was set up with a ‘call for evidence’ in July 2010. And by that time, they had all the evidence from the consultation on waste to landfill. That’s a bit naughty having all the evidence from a consultation, and then announcing nine months later that there‘s going to be another consultation in a year’s time, isn’t it pedant?

I wonder where all the paperwork from the consultation has gone? I might ask a Parliamentary question to find out. Maybe it’s gone to landfill.

Later that day……..

Well, Pedant has been working overtime. It turns out that the paperwork on the consultation has not gone to landfill, but it has certainly gone. Try and raise the ‘summary of responses to the consultation  on the introduction of restrictions on the landfilling of certain wastes’ on the DEFRA website and you will be greeted with the helpful rejoinder that ‘the internet site reports that the item you requested could not be found’.  Your pedant might respond at this point: ‘well if it couldn’t be found how do you know it exists?’ My pedant will, whip-like, retort: ’because it appears (still) on the Welsh Assembly Government website, who jointly sponsored the consultation’.  You can have a look here. And yes, consultees thought banning wood and other wastes was a good idea by about two to one. But the government was not convinced.  This is what they concluded:

‘The Government is not minded to introduce landfill bans in England at the present time, but will reach a view on the best way to achieve zero waste to landfill as part of the Waste Policy Review announced by the Secretary of State earlier this year’.

And the view is (as we now know) that they will consult next year. But this year, they’re not minded to do it. Perhaps several years reflection will change their view. You never know.