Report on Zero Waste Lobby


Report on parliamentary lobby 'Beyond Recycling - Towards Zero Waste'

held in Westminster on 18 June 2002 hosted by Sue Doughty (MP for Guildford).



The purpose of this document is as follows:

- to brief people who were unable to attend the event

- to follow up on a number of technical points raised concerning MBT and the draft EU Bio Waste directive

- summary of media coverage

- response from the Waste Industry.



MPs from all the major parties attended including Labour, LibDem, Conservative, SNP and Ulster Unionist. They represented constituencies from Surrey, East Sussex, Essex, Kent, South West England, North East England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland. A couple of MPs who could not make it sent their researchers. Anti-incineration campaigners present came from Essex, London, Kent, Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire, Newcastle, Derby, Hull, Bedfordshire, Norfolk and Merseyside. No one from DEFRA or the Environment Agency showed up and there was no statement read out on their behalf, which was disappointing.


As a part of this event the Zero Waste Charter was launched along with the Ten Point Plan

(or Zero Waste Ten Commandments).


The Zero Waste Charter was officially signed by the following:

·        Miranda Holmes, Zero Waste campaigner, Greenpeace

·        Charles Secrett, Executive Director, Friends of the Earth

·        Marion Williams, Socialist Environment Resources Association

·        Ralph Ryder, Communities Against Toxics (CATs)

·        Joelle van Tinteren, UK Zero Waste Alliance


In England one local authority has already adopted a Zero Waste policy, namely Bath and North East Somerset (Cllr Roger Symonds attended the event). At the lobby it was announced that a number of local authorities are currently proposing such a policy, including Braintree and Colchester in Essex.


To keep this report short I have only covered the points raised by a couple of key speakers.



Some sectors of industry are leading the way; Toyota and Honda both have a zero waste target.

Reduced CO2 emissions go hand in hand with zero waste. For example Holland has seen 50% reduction in CO2 emissions by making better use of resources. This helps to achieve the Kyoto agreement on reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Recycling/composting rate of 60% is now accepted as being achievable within the waste industry, this is a significant change from their stance 10 years ago.

This should be based on source separation and kerbside collection including organic waste (ie. kitchen and garden waste).

Civic Amenity sites need to provide comprehensive facilities for disposal of electrical goods and hazardous household materials.

Babies nappies: Procter & Gamble need to develop a biodegradable product.

Packaging: TetraPak need to develop a biodegradable product.

Producer Responsibility takes time.

Difficult to understand why politicians and the Treasury do not grasp to benefits of zero waste.

In the USA the waste/recycling industry is bigger than the car industry.

In Germany, the waste/recycling industry is bigger than the telecoms industry.

The Cabinet Office Performance and Innovation Unit (PIU) and now re-evaluating the government's waste strategy. Robin has been providing some input. Report due out in October.

It seems that many politicians have not grasped the financial benefits of increased recycling/composting.

The Treasury needs to provide transitional funding to local authorities.

Funds are already generated by packaging regulations through 'Packaging Waste Recovery Notes' (PRNs).

Funds are also generated by Landfill Tax Credit. This should be changed to a disposal tax to cover incineration as well.



Leading countries such as Canada have successfully used a 3 stream waste system for several years with kerbside collection. This 3-stream system comprises of:

 40 % recyclable material

 40 % compostable

 20 % residual waste


The economics are very simple to understand. Firstly recyclable and compostable material that has been separated at source and collected has a value. Similarly mixed waste, which is collected and sent to an incinerator ultimately, has a value because of the electricity it generates, but this is less than 5% of the value that could have been generated by recycling/composting.

Secondly we can compare the revenue generated by an incinerator with that generated by a paper recycling facility. A typically sized incinerator will generate £30 million during the course of its 25-year lifetime. Compare this with an organisation such as Alyesford Print, which is generating £2.2 billion.


The tools for achieving change: PRN, Landfill Tax, Zero Waste Charter.

Roadblocks for change: multi-national waste companies.

Curse of not dealing with this issue: climate change, for example in British Columbia large areas of forest have been decimate.


MATT PUMFREY, ORRTEC (Organic and Resource Recovery Technology)

Between 35 % and 55% of household waste is compostable. If only 80% of residents participate this will allow a local authority to achieve the government targets.

Once the EU BioWaste directive comes into force local authorities will have to tackle this issue. This directive is already in its second draft and is likely to become effective in 2004.

Kerbside collection of kitchen waste and garden waste (ie. bio waste) should go into small community-based composting facilities.

Matt believes that in-vessel composting provides the most cost-effective solution for bio waste obtained from source separation and kerbside collection. He favours Vertical Composting Units (VCUs) because they are quite small.

The economics speak for themselves; compare the cost per tonne shown below:

- Landfill £30 - £50 per tonne of mixed waste

- Incineration £90 - £190 per tonne of mixed waste

- In-vessel composting VCUs   £19 -£30 bio-waste

VCU’s are already being successfully used in London, Sheffield and Auckland NZ.

Although DEFRA have some concerns with bio-waste because of foot and mouth disease the EU Animal By-Products Order (ABPO) resolves most of the issues. In-vessel composting facilities appear to be the way forward.


Alternative techniques for biowaste are being considered in some areas. One alternative is anaerobic digestion, which is used to treat bio-waste. It produces bio-gas, which can be used to produce electricity. This type of facility is has been built in Toronto and Auckland NZ.


Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) is another emerging technology. In the UK Shranks Group PLC is proposing this solution for East London Waste Authority, and also for Milton Keynes. Matt expressed concerns with this particular proposal because it was being used to treat mixed waste and because the waste coming out was being fed into an incinerator. MBT was really intended for residual waste that remains after recycling and composting have been maximised with source separation. Good examples include Milan and Toronto, where the “grey compost” which comes out goes safely to landfill.

See additional information at the end of this report on VCUs, MBT and the BioWaste directive.



SERA is the Socialist Environment Resources Association. Do not confuse this organisation with the South East England Regional Assembly (SEERA).

SERA helped to produce a “Working Together” policy that was jointly agreed by Essex County Council and all district councils in Essex. This policy provided a good framework to move forward with.

Marion expressed concern that the Environment Agency appears to be sending out contradictory messages on the desirability of composting compared with other techniques. Matt was also surprised by this and said afterwards that he would follow it up.


WORKU LAKEW, Recycling Works

Their aim in Haringey was to make kerbside collection cheaper than refuse collection, this has been achieved.

Recycling target = 60 % to 80%

Pedestrian Controlled Vehicles (PCVs) are used, they have proved very cost-effective for inner city areas. PCV’s are also being used in Islington



Robin Murray made the following points on suggestions for a way forward:

-         Every waste disposal authority should carry out pre-treatment of bio-waste. There should also be facilities at Civic Amenity sites for taking hazardous household waste. MBT facilities provide a good solution for residual waste because they can have a modular design, so they can be converted to a composting facility later as we get nearer to the zero waste target.

-         MPs should sign up to the Zero Waste Charter. They should also sign up for Early Day Motions relating to recycling and kerbside collection.

-         Anti-incinerator groups and anti-landfill groups should work together

-         The Cabinet Office Performance and Innovation Unit (PIU) are due to produce their report in October/November on the National Waste Strategy

-         The Zero Waste Charter is the tool to change current thinking on waste management.



- The Eagle 96.4FM (and presumably County Sound as well): 18 June at 9am, news item promoting the event plus a few words from Sue Doughty

- Surrey Advertiser (Guildford edition): 21 June, picture plus quote from our press release

- Meridian TV: news item recorded on College Green, which included a GAIN interview

- broadsheets: brief mention of the lobby in news item on the Basingstoke incinerator

- also see GAIN press release

and GAIN photos



The Environmental Services Association is the trade body for the UK's waste management industry. The Energy from Waste Association merged with ESA fairly recently. The ESA's members include organisations such as SITA. They made a press statement in response to the zero waste lobby. The full text of their statement can be found at:



This information was obtained after the event, mainly by talking to the keynote speakers.



EU Bio Waste Directive (EU reference =

“Working document – biological treatment of biowaste”, Second draft, 12 Feb 2001)


This directive states that Member States should set up separate collection schemes for biodegradable waste (ie. biowaste), such as kitchen waste, for all towns with a population over 100,000 (to be achieved within 3 years of legislation being introduced). Villages will a population over 2,000 should achieve this within 5 years. Residual waste should be minimised by separate collection of recyclables and biowaste.  Any residual waste going to landfill should be pre-treated by Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) to stabilise the waste reducing odour and the production of greenhouse gases. The Germans, Dutch, Austrians are very much in favour of this directive with only some minor complains from France and the main complains from the UK (specifically the Environment Agency). All indications from Brussels suggest that this directive will be signed in 2004, so the first deadline will be 2007 (for population over 100,000) and the second deadline will be 2009.



Keith Collins, Cllr Roger Symonds and Matt Pumfrey clarified that the issues raised by Matt with MBT specifically relate to the Shranks design proposed for Milton Keynes and East London Waste Authority. This particular design is basically over-built and is too large. The whole waste stream is fed into the proposed facility without adequate source separation. In addition it’s output is used to make fuel pellets (or Refuse Derived Fuel), which go into a liquid bed incinerator where they are burnt to generate electricity. This method of incineration was used at Byker in Newcastle where it was found that residues of plastic in the waste stream caused explosions during incineration. The incineration process will also produce dioxins and toxic ash like any other mass burn incinerator. Keith Collins added that MBT should only be used as a method of stabilising residual waste after source separation.



Keith Collins and Cllr Roger Symonds (from Bath & NE Somerset) were very much in favour of food waste/garden waste going to a network of local in-vessel composting facilities like the VCU’s described by Matt Pumfrey. VCU’s are used to process source separated biowaste, they cannot be used for mixed waste. These plants are relatively cheap and small (about the size of a three bedroom house), they can serve a community of 5 – 10, 000 homes. The compost produced can be sold back to the local community.


Document produced 6 July 2002 by GAIN