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Landfill Bans Increase Resource Value of Recovered Products, Says Green Alliance

Research from Green Alliance shows that, in the US, 92% of discarded mobile devices are sent to landfill, while in the UK, 25% of mobile devices are already recovered, with 80% expected to be diverted from landfills by 2020. The difference, Green Alliance says, is that preventing landfilling via the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive and the End of Life Vehicles (EoLV) directive have helped make collection better and recycling cheaper and have increased the resource value recovered from discarded products, writes New Materials International.

The US, Green Alliance points out, does not have landfill bans.

Green Alliance says that, by taking away the “easy option,” landfill bans encourage better collection systems and improve the ability to create economies of scale and underpin investment in collection and processing infrastructure. Policies such as landfill bans also focus on getting more value out of waste.

In fact, if such restrictions covered food, textiles, wood and plastics, the UK could keep as much as 2.5 billion pounds worth of resources in production each year, Green Alliance claims.

The story is similar with automobiles: in 2003, the UK spent 88 million pounds in the collection of illegally dumped cars and in landfilling cars. But when a policy later in 2003 went into effect, prohibiting dumping and landfilling, the UK has since recovered 29 million pounds of resources.

“Our economy was built on a wasteful pattern: we make things out of valuable raw materials that last for a few years, and then stick these raw materials back into the ground as landfill. This no longer makes sense,” says Dustin Benton, senior policy adviser at Green Alliance. “The economics are clear. Even broken products contain valuable materials, which should be worth enough to keep them out of landfill… Because these products have been difficult to collect and difficult to recycle, we continue to lose the resources inside them. It turns out that getting materials out of landfill is surprisingly difficult. Market signals haven’t been enough on their own.”

Benton says that introducing bans over a five- to 10-year time-frame gives industry enough time to respond and plan, and would work better than extending landfill taxes, which are based on weight rather than type of material. “It gives industry a real sense of confidence and a long term signal that if they invest in reprocessing infrastructure, you will make money,” he told BusinessGreen. “Landfill taxes are good for big, bulky materials, but mean many valuable materials are still left in landfills.”

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