A £3 billion waste disposal programme for the UK has become “flat-right rubbish”, according to the country’s Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman.
“We need to make sure that waste is disposed of properly and safely, as we do every day, but we don’t have the money to do that,” she said.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) had committed to spend £3.6bn over five years to recycle waste and to “build up a waste collection system” to make up the shortfall, but had announced just £1.6 billion of that money had been spent on waste collection in the last year.
“This is rubbish,” said Ms Spelman, who was speaking at the UK Waste Policy Summit in Liverpool on Wednesday.
“It’s a waste that needs to be removed from the waste stream in a secure and safe way.”
Waste removal from waste stream A recent report by the National Audit Office (NAO) found that the amount of waste generated in the UK was far lower than the Government’s expectations and had fallen in recent years.
In the previous fiscal year, the NAO estimated that the country had generated just over £500m worth of waste each year.
It said that waste collection and incineration accounted for about one quarter of the UK’s waste, and that the waste was being “froze, frozen, and buried”.
Ms Spelt said the Government had failed to implement the programme to the full, adding that it was a “failure of leadership” on the part of the Government.
“The Government has failed to get the money for waste collection properly and has not been delivering the programme,” she told the event.
“Instead, the Government has been moving the waste onto private companies to do the work and it’s rubbish.”
Ms Spelth said that although the government had spent about £1bn on the waste-removal programme, it had not managed to reduce the number of tonnes of waste that it generated.
“They have not been able to build up a system for recycling and we’ve seen that,” Ms Spels said.
“And that’s the biggest problem, that we have wasted money on the wrong thing.”
A recent study by the NAA found that Britain’s waste-to-energy generation was “unacceptably low”, with just 0.8 per cent of the total waste produced being recycled.
The NAA said that the Government was “pushing waste through the system, which is putting waste at risk”.
It also said that there was no national strategy for waste-management in the country, which could be one of the reasons why the Government failed to take action.
“So what we’re looking at is not just waste, but waste management as a whole,” Ms Espelth told the conference.
“In a sense, we’re putting waste on the roads and we’re taking the road into our towns and cities.
And that’s not what we want.”
Ms Espelman said that she was “very frustrated” by Defra’s decision to keep the money that was set aside for waste disposal at a cost of around £200 per tonne, despite the fact that it had been allocated to “the future”.
She said that it should be returned to the public purse.
“A lot of the waste in our communities, the landfill is a very big waste site,” she added.
“What we need is not a waste-recovery scheme, but a waste management system that is safe, secure and efficient.”