The UK and the 1999 Landfill Directive: Today

The UK and the 1999 Landfill Directive: Today

Most waste often ends up in landfills, the chemical effect of landfills are disastrous. The main result of landfills is the production of greenhouse gases. The waste which food scraps and green waste generates produces large levels of methane – 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

The Landfill Directive (1999/31/EC) aims to prevent or reduce as far as possible negative effects of landfilling waste, in particular on surface water, groundwater, soil, air, and on human health by introducing stringent technical requirements for waste and landfills. Biodegradable waste decomposes in landfill to produce methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Within the Landfill Directive the UK has three targets to meet, measured as a percentage of the tonnage of the Biodegradable Municipal Waste (“BMW”) generated in 1995 (‘the 1995 baseline’). These require the tonnage of BMW to landfill to be:

  • No greater than 75% of the 1995 baseline by 2010;
  • No greater than 50% of the 1995 baseline by 2013;
  • No greater than 35% of the 1995 baseline by 2020.

The UK’s BMW sent to landfill in 2015 was 7.7 million tonnes, representing 22 per cent of the 1995 baseline value. There is an EU target to restrict BMW landfilled to 35 per cent of the 1995 baseline by 2020. The UK comfortably met interim targets for 2010 and 2013. England is responsible for the vast majority of UK BMW to Landfill, generating 6.0 million tonnes of the UK total 7.7 million tonnes BMW to Landfill in 2015. The UK’s tonnage of BMW to Landfill has reduced each year between 2010 and 2015 and levels have fallen considerably since 1995. The large drop seen for Wales in 2015 can be attributed to an energy-from-waste plant becoming fully operational.

In 2016, the UK met its landfill reduction target by sending most of its landfill to waste to waste treating sites. The UK is now gearing towards meeting its targets as set out in the Landfill Directive. Projects such as those offered by REWS is ensuring the UK does not hold more than 35% of its waste in landfills.