Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Continental drift

Britain lags behind the rest of Europe in looking for alternatives to landfill.

Blame ground conditions for Britain's dependency on landfill as its main form of waste disposal. Impermeable clays and muds have made it relatively easy for us to bury our waste without fear of it contaminating surrounding ground and water. As a result Britain has lagged behind many of its European neighbours in finding alternative disposal strategies.

Countries like Belgium and the Netherlands have been forced to pursue other routes because of sandy, permeable soils. As a result they are perhaps 10 to 15 years ahead of Britain in developing recycling techniques and in getting waste incineration accepted.

Many Continental countries are also much more aggressive in their efforts to discourage landfill. In some parts of Belgium, such disposal of paper, food and garden waste is banned.

Finland, Germany and Sweden are following this lead and are banning landfill disposal of municipal waste from 2005.

And while Britain's construction industry is starting to sweat over the prospect of paying a £13/t landfill tax, the Dutch are already paying £45/t, having struggled to make a lower charge work. High landfill taxes incentivise companies to look at recycling and reusing materials as a way avoiding financial pain. Some are also pursuing the markets emerging for recycled products by selling on materials reclaimed from bulk waste.

Revenue from landfill tax is being used to refund consumers who recycle packaging, glass and plastic bottles. Germany had to invest heavily in the scheme to get it up and running, but ultimately achieved recycling rates of more than 60%.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.