'Primark effect' still clogging up UK landfills


A million tonnes of textile waste is sent to landfill every year

Calls to bring forward ban on recyclable material sent to landfill increase, as reports emerge of big increases in the quantity of textile waste being dumped

The Government should rush through a ban on certain materials being sent to landfill by 2015 to reduce England's 'waste mountain', according to a report on waste strategies from MPs.

The proportion of total waste sent to landfill annually has decreased by nearly a quarter in recent years, but in that time textile waste has risen to more than one million tonnes, driven by what MPs from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) committee called the 'Primark effect', the tendency to discard low cost clothes quickly.

Giving evidence to MPs, a waste operative run by Viridor near Croydon said textile waste had increased from around 7 per cent five years ago to around 30 per cent of total waste today.

Commercial waste

MPs also called on Government waste strategies to focus more on the commercial rather than domestic sector. Householders contribute less than 10 per cent to the entire waste stream, they said.

The biggest culprit was the retail and wholesale sector, which produced 12.7 million tonnes of waste in 2002-03, nearly half of which was sent to landfill. In addition, nearly half of household waste sent to landfill originated as a purchase from retail supermarkets and convenience stories.

MPs recommended that retailers with a turnover greater than £50 million per annum should be required to publish details of their waste prevention strategies, including details of the targets they have set for waste reduction by type of material.

Plastic bags

There were no calls for a ban on the continued provision of free plastic carrier bags by retailers, but MPs did highlight bans in place in China and South Australia on retailers handing out single-use bags.

The report highlighted efforts being made to reduce food waste, with 6.7 million tonnes - one third of food bought - currently thrown away every year and generating 18 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in landfill sites, equivalent to the emissions from 4 million cars.

The Government's Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has been running a 'Love Food, Hate Waste' campaign since November 2007 and Defra has also announced plans to reform packaging label rules to reduce confusion over 'best before' dates.

Friends of the Earth backed the calls to ban the landfill and incineration of recyclable material.

Useful links

EFRA waste report
Friends of the Earth report - Gone to waste: the valuable resources that European countries bury and burn

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