2 MAY 2019 by Joshua Doherty

The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has called for a ban on all biodegradable waste sent to landfill by 2025, if the UK is to reach ‘net zero emissions’ by 2050.

The CCC released its long-awaited report this morning (May 02) outlining what several sectors need to do in order to reach the 2050 target.

For the waste industry, it noted that along with measures to reduce food waste, policy needs to be introduced to ban biodegradable waste going to landfill by 2025.

Today’s report outlines how the UK can reach ‘net zero emissions’ by 2025

“Bio-degradable waste streams should not be sent to landfill after 2025. This will require regulation and enforcement, with supporting actions through the waste chain, including for example mandatory separation of remaining waste,” the report stated.

“Emissions from waste [sector] have fallen by 69% since 1990, due to the UK’s landfill tax, which has reduced the amount of biodegradable waste going to landfill, and due to an increase in methane captured at landfill sites,” it added.


The recommendation comes as Scotland has faced mounting pressure in recent weeks over its preparation for the 2021 landfill ban it introduced.

A Eunomia report commissioned by the Scottish Government said insufficient preparation had been made (see letsrecycle.com story), while the Chartered Institution of Wastes management called for the ban to be halted (see letsrecycle.com story).

With regards to policy, the CCC said that taxes on the waste industry sending waste to landfill has helped it to reduce its emissions over the last 10 years (as outlined below) and urged similar action for high carbon activities.

“The landfill tax, which was introduced in 1996 and has since increased in price more than tenfold, has driven a reduction of over 75% in biodegradable waste being sent to landfill and a diversion to other disposal routes such as recycling. It has been supported by policies to reduce waste arisings,” the report stated.

It added: “These policies demonstrate that there are multiple routes to success , including taxing high carbon activities.”

However, some remaining emissions by 2050 are likely to be unavoidable from continuing waste degradation at legacy landfill sites.

‘Core options’

The report outlined the ‘core options’ that are likely to be required under any climate strategy for each sector. For example, in transport, the core scenario needed reflects the Government’s current commitment to phase-out sales of conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040.

For the waste sector, it stated that much of this was already in place, including an increase in recycling rates in line with current ambition in England and the devolved administrations (e.g. from around 45% in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland and over 60% in Wales today, to 65% in England by 2035 and 70% in Scotland and Wales by 2025).


The report also explained that reducing food waste is a “key step” that individuals can take to reduce emissions, but the focus here was largely on consumer behaviour.

This included reducing the quantity of food purchased as currently, a significant share of agricultural land is devoted to the production of food that ends up being thrown away, “often still in an edible state”.

At an embargoed launch event of the report earlier this week, Chris Stark, the committee’s chief executive, explained that nothing stated in the report is unreasonable.

Lord Deben, the former environment secretary who introduced the landfill tax, unveiled the report an an embargoed event earlier this week

“It is not just a target, and must cover all sectors of the economy. This is technically possible with known technologies and without major changes to consumer behaviours.

“It is more than just a target, and it is not credible to set the target without a significant change in policy to establish it. These are all things the CCC has mentioned before and we have been planning this for some time. The costs are manageable and can be met at an annual resource cost of up to 1-2% of GDP to 2050.”

Also at the launch event was Lord Deben, who is chair of the CCC, who challenged the government to implement the changes, and said the targets are conservative.

“We know we can achieve this and the means by which we can do so. We have been entirely conservative and not based our answer on some new technology as yet unknown arising at some point. We have taken the technology and circumstances we do know and have looked at those to say truthfully we can reach this end in 2050.

“We haven’t pretended you can estimate as to what will happen with these new technologies, we believe it is better to say this is based on a principle in which we don’t make those improvements that have happened in our lifetime,” he added.

The full report can be read here