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%.