Thesis, 12 pages (3000 words)

Waste management strategies in uk and eu thesis example


Waste management refers to the process of collecting, transporting and disposing trash, sewage and other waste materials. There are different sources of waste including residential, industrial, commercial, institutional, construction and demolition, municipal, agriculture and manufacturing and all these waste products whether solid, gaseous, liquid or radioactive come under the realm of waste management. The EU Waste Framework Directive lays down a legislative framework for the waste management and also provides a definition for waste. Article 1 of the EU Directive provides the definition of waste as “any substance or object which the holder discards, or intends to or isrequired to discard” (Hand 2006, p 8). Any discarded material as per the definition of EU Directive is a waste no matter how much value it holds to subsequent holders. EU definition of waste, however, doesn’t include radioactive waste, gaseous waste, natural unharmful materials like manure and waste water. This paper will highlight five step approach of waste hierarchy and different approaches undertaken by UK and EU to implement its waste management plan successfully.

Waste Hierarchy

Waste affects us all. Every day in EU, 500 million people and industries generate more than 1 billion tonnes of waste per day. This waste has a huge impact on environment in terms of greenhouse gas emission, pollution and climate change. The five step approach of EU aims at making the continent a recycling society in long run. The first and foremost waste management strategy is prevention and minimization of any kind of waste. EU’s sixth environment action program (2002-2012) stated that waste management is one of the four top most priorities of the union. This resulted in the creation of the waste management Directive in 2005 which was further revised in 2008. UK followed EU and created its waste management plan in 2006-2007.
In earlier Directives disposal and landfill were the primary focus for handling any type of waste. This approach changed in 2005 and 2008 draft of the waste management. Now the primary focus is on prevention. Landfill is the last and most undesired option of waste management.
– Prevention
Prevention is the most valued step in the EU/UK directive. EU waste management Directive states that if possible everyone should try to minimize generation of waste. Prevention of waste generation should be minimized by improvement of manufacturing process, better eco-friendly design of the products and spreading awareness among all. Electronic waste is on the rise in last one decade in EU. EU has now created a very stringent norm for usage of hazardous material in electronic equipment.
– Reuse
Reuse is highly encouraged in the new five step waste management approach. Reuse means that using the old thing again and again for the same or some other purpose. For example, reuse of clothes, furniture benefits the environment and society.
– Recycling
Recycling is the final goal for EU for all types of wastes. The EU Directive aims at becoming a recycling society with targets set for EU members states to “recycle 50% of their municipal waste and 70% of construction waste by 2020” (European Commission). EU/UK Directives clearly set stringent target for recycling in the areas of used vehicles, electronic equipment, batteries, packaging materials, municipal waste and construction waste. EU/UK made it clear that it is the responsibility of the producer in case of most of that type of waste to recycle it and manage it through the full cycle. From individual level to corporation level, everyone is asked to separate out the wastes they generate. This way the treatment and handling of the wastes can be proper and efficient.
– Energy Recovery
Many types of wastes can be used as fuel for a lot of energy plants. Wastes are currently used as fuel for producing electricity, steam etc. In this process if the waste is not fully burnt then the waste produces hazardous chemicals like dioxins and acid gases. EU recommends that wastes need to be burned under controlled environment in incineration plants. EU has also set environmental emission standards to minimize emission of hazardous gases from incineration plants to maximize environmental benefit. EU Directive to the municipal corporations is to create Biogas plants to tap the biogas generated from the bio waste. Currently more than 40% of the bio waste goes to landfill and never used. If those are also used in bio gas generation then 2% of the total EU’s energy will be met from biogas by 2020. Another by-product of bio-waste is the compost which also can be used in agriculture.
– Landfill
Landfill is the most used and oldest form of waste treatment technique. The technique is not eco-friendly. Landfill produces huge amount of methane gas in the environment. Methane is much worse than CO2 in the air. If any site is used as landfill site for a long time then some other heavy metals and chemicals are released in the soil and water level. This will affect the groundwater and agriculture which in turn will pose a threat to public health. EU Directive states that by 2016 landfill should be reduced to 35% from by all EU member countries. Similar directive exists for UK as well. Even after identifying it as the least favorite option for waste treatment it remains the most used one even today. If all the methane gases generated from municipal wastes are collected then it can approximately transmit electricity to 20,000 houses per year.

Waste Management Strategies and Directives in UK

The UK Directive which closely follows the EU Directive of 2005 sets out a five step approach of waste hierarchy with prevention being the finest option closely followed by other options such as minimization, reuse, recycling, energy recovery and disposal with landfill being the last option. The UK Directive wants its member states (Wales and England) to make sure that the waste is dumped or retrieved in a way not harmful to human health or the environment, especially the methods and techniques used in waste management should not pose any risk to water, plant, soil and animals or create nuisance by making noise or producing rotten smell and should not affect the places of special interest in any way (Bradshaw 2006, p 8).
The strategy for central government of UK is to enable each part of the society to help reduce waste by taking responsibility. This strategy tries to decouple waste management from economic growth and puts emphasis on less landfill and more recycling of waste. The broad focus will be to reduce greenhouse gases by 9.3 million tonnes every year compared to 2006, reduction of household waste by 29% by 2010 from the level of 2000, 53% of recovery of municipal waste. The government is currently working on creating a household financial incentive scheme to reduce waste. It already gives a tax incentive to municipalities for using less landfill (Bradshaw 2006, p. 11).
Most of the UK Directives are put into execution through national legislation. In the UK there has been a string of statutes implementing the following directives for different types of wastes:
– Hazardous Waste Regulations
Hazardous waste is waste which has the potential to cause harm to the environment and human health if not properly managed. That is why cautions are maintained right from its production to movement, management, dumping and recovery process.
– The Landfill Directive
A landfill refers to waste treatment method of dumping waste and rubbish on a particular site. The landfill Directive makes sure that no harm is caused to the environment due to landfilling by imposing some strict technical parameters for waste and minimizing the amount of biodegradable municipal waste that goes to landfilling.
– End of Life Vehicles Directive
Automobiles that have come to the end of their life cycle create tonnes of waste every year in EU and therefore ELV regulation in order to protect the environment from the waste of end of life vehicles encourage collection and recycling of their parts.
– Waste shipment regulations
As part of waste treatment, waste is transported across borders via ship, rail or roads. The Waste Shipment Regulations control transportation of waste between UK and other countries. Some waste movements are banned, some others need written notification and consent and the movement of many other sorts of waste are controlled by administration.
– Batteries Directive
Waste batteries are considered harmful to the environment due to the content of hazardous properties and the Batteries Directive aims to reduce the negative effect waste batteries leave on the environment by putting a restriction on certain hazardous chemicals in the manufacturing of new batteries, prohibiting the dumping of hazardous batteries in landfill and keeping collection and recycling targets for portable waste batteries.
– UK Ship Recycling Strategy
Ships at the end of their life cycle are broken in parts which serve as useful raw materials but older ships often contain hazardous properties such as tributyl tin, asbestos, PCBs and oil sludge. Therefore ship recycling has become a global issue and UK recycling strategy aims to keep the safety of environment over everything else and sets out policies relative to recycling of ships.

Waste Management Approach in UK

Waste continues to increase with time so does consumption of different types of products. Many stakeholders still cannot realize the benefit of waste minimization and resource efficiency. This poses a challenge in waste management plan implementation. It will be difficult to focus on everything at one go as it involves a lot of stakeholders. Instead the UK central government in its first phase of waste management plan identified products, materials that are most harmful to the environment. For example, paper industry is of high importance. Reduction of paper waste will not only improve the total waste but also will improve the wood consumption. UK government identified more such products and those are called priority waste materials. These materials are almost barred from landfill and the law states that they should be recycled or recovered. Paper, aluminum, clothes and wood are the major four material groups falling under priority waste materials. The Directive states to develop and submit plan to recycle aluminum and reduce waste of paper. Similarly the waste management approach also identifies priority products for which it mandates the organizations to design the product in such a way that product waste is minimized and the product manufacturing is eco-friendly. The UK government also has similar approach towards industry sectors.

Municipal Waste Management in UK and EU

Most of the EU municipalities are facing a huge problem in managing the ever increasing municipal waste. The average municipal waste was 460 kg per head in 1995 and it is all slated to increase to 680 kg per head by 2020. The situation is no different in UK. Till 2004, 47% of the total municipal waste was landfilled but the recent EU Directive of landfill is forcing the municipalities to send the waste for recycling or energy generation. The greenhouse gases emitted from the municipal waste is declining and will fall further as more and more municipalities start treating their wastes as per EU Directives. The more waste is treated for recycling and energy generation the less will be the green gas emission. EU is making the technology available to the municipalities to create energy plants which can process waste and create energy. EU is also helping municipalities to help use the huge bio-waste to produce biogas which can be used to produce energy.
The main question, however, remains as to how to enforce the municipalities to follow the Directives. UK in its 2006 Directive came up with some schemes to incentivize the municipalities. UK central government gives special tax rebate and other incentives to municipalities for using less landfill. To reduce landfill the municipalities must increase its recycling and incarceration plants that will improve the overall waste management. UK also gives enhanced capital allowances for municipalities or corporations which are investing in use of waste as a fuel. UK government has also removed the ban from local authorities introducing tax incentive for less waste generation in households. (Bradshaw 2006, p. 33)

Attract Investment in Waste Management

Waste management is seen as a responsibility of central and local government bodies. It is often ignored by the mainstream industry. In recent times due to enforcement of international waste management laws and EU and UK Directives, lots of companies are looking at waste management solutions. The demand for recycling and energy generation from waste has increased manifold. This has increased the interest of many private parties that are now willing to invest in the waste management technologies. UK government facilitates the financials of such technologies. UK government also gives tax rebates on waste management technology related procurements like setting up an incarceration plant or biogas plants or anaerobic digestate. UK and EU are supporting in-house development of waste management technologies.

Prevention Techniques: Start at home

As per the EU and UK five steps Directive, the prevention techniques should start at home only because most of the waste is generated by individual households. First and foremost we should reduce needless consumption to reduce waste. We should try to buy food in bulk especially grains and cereals. This will reduce the requirement of paper and plastic box consumptions. We should try to buy products that use less packaging and we should try to use as less plastic bags as possible during shopping.
One can reduce construction waste by remodeling than demolition and reconstruction of a facility. We should try to reuse electronics items whenever possible as electronics goods as waste materials are one of the most hazardous for the environment. At home using towels, rags and sponges will help reduce paper cleaning wipes usage. This will help in reducing the demand for paper and wood. We should try to buy products which can be recycled and also should try to reuse products wherever we can. If all these prevention measures are undertaken by all of us then total generation of waste will come down drastically. For this to happen, UK and EU are creating several awareness campaigns on TV and internet.

Waste Management Technologies: Economic Viability

There are two major areas in which technology is used. The first and foremost is the separation of different types of waste from a waste dump yard and the second is the use of technology to recycle/generate energy from the waste.
Let’s first have a look at the current technologies available for separation of waste. For the separation of waste at the municipal or industry level technology is already available and economically viable. Northern Spain’s La Rioja province is using a separator to segregate its municipal Solid waste (MSW) from other wastes and then using it to produce 2.13 MW of electricity. It uses an anaerobic digester to separate out MSW efficiently. This technology is used in many other states in EU. The technology is cheap and available. Various other separation techniques available include Trommel separators, Eddy Current Separator, Induction Sorting and near infrared sensor sorting. These techniques are economically and technologically suitable for handling large mass and can be used by municipalities. The next level of separation technique is on the process of becoming available to individuals. EU/UK is now trying to create a machine which can separate out different types of waste at a house level. They are still not suitable economically for household usage. As more and more companies venture into waste management sector there is a chance that in near future more sophisticated and economic separator units will be available at household level as well.
In case of energy generation technologies from waste, there are several options available. Standard incineration is an age old technique of generating energy from municipal wastes. Conventional incineration plants used to emit greenhouse gases as a byproduct. As per the strict EU Directive of 2008 and UK Directive of 2007, modern day incineration plants have changed a lot. Modern day plants are costly to build but can reduce the waste by almost 96%. Though in small quantity, incineration technique still produces dioxins and acid gases. The new technology reduces the landfill requirement drastically and also it is becoming economically viable for anyone to use but due to its emission side effect incineration remains a cause of concern for many environmentalists. There are other less popular technologies like gasification, de-polymerization, plasma arc gasification, fermentation, anaerobic digestion etc.


As defined by EU/UK Directive any discarded material is a waste and in the context of waste generation by billions of tonnes every year in Europe the EU Directive has imposed some mandatory targets of waste management for the member states. Any comprehensive waste management approach covers the five step process of waste management. Waste Management is such an area that affects everyone in the society and hence it requires a comprehensive strategy to get a result benefitting all the stakeholders. UK and EU strategy framework identifies different strategic requirements in terms of handling, treatment and disposal of waste. Distribution of responsibility at various levels of government and private bodies are not always well defined. EU and UK framework have created proper responsibility matrix. UK and EU also created strategies to implement the waste management plan in phases. It focuses on few priority sectors and products in the first phase which has maximum environmental impact. The comprehensive waste management strategy by EU and UK includes strategies to attract new investment, encourage individuals and industries to generate less waste by providing incentives and creating awareness of waste prevention using public media.


Relevant legislation and regulations, Gov.UK. Viewed on 28 June 2013
Being wise with waste: the EU’s approach to waste management, European Commission, Viewed on 28 June 2013 http://ec.europa.eu/environment/waste/pdf/WASTE%20BROCHURE.pdf
Jansen, Kerri. Diversionary Tactics: Airplane Fuel of Future. Waste & Recycling News. Viewed on 28 June 2013 < http://www.wasterecyclingnews.com/article/20130301/BLOGS10/130309992/airplane-fuel-of-the-future>
Simple Tips for Reusing Materials, Californians Against Waste. Viewed on 28 June 2013
Schubeler, Peter. 1996. Conceptual Framework for Municipal Solid Waste Management in Low Income Countries. Urban Management and Infrastructure. World Bank. Viewed on 28 June 2013
Municipal Waste Europe promotes municipal waste management within the European Union. Municipal waste Europe. Viewed on 28 June 2013
Hall, David. Waste management in Europe: EU context, public-private roles, efficiency, and evaluation. Viewed on 28 June 2013
Bradshaw, Ben (2007). Waste Strategy for England 2007, Viewed on 28 June 2013 < http://archive.defra.gov.uk/environment/waste/strategy/strategy07/documents/waste07-strategy.pdf>

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