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United Kingdom Environmental and Waste Management Policies

Background information

Guided by the Kyoto Protocol, environmental and waste regulations as well as the United Kingdom government’s commitment to greenness and resource efficiency, the country adopted policies with regard to waste. In fact, in an era when there is an increased awareness of environmental issues, there is a need to adopt effective approaches to the management of waste. There is a focus on sustainable use of resources to support economic development, and achieve environmental benefits.

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The government commitment to national and international waste policies meant effective measures to deal with waste to address significant issues such as environmental protection, energy efficiency, material security and climate change.

Although the country made significant progress in increasing recycling and minimising landfills, there is the need for more and faster action. More measures could result in benefits to the environment and minimisation of climate change implications as well as creation of a green economy through enhanced competitiveness, innovation and efficiency.

Main body

Illustration of the land filling-in problem

National data from the United Kingdom indicate the detrimental implications of land filling-in to the environment. “The 40.3% of MSW landfilled in the UK is sent to the country’s 725 active landfill sites; producing some 4979 GWh of electricity from the methane recovered” (Themelis & Bourtsalas n.d). The land fill-in sits in the country result in negative consequences to the environment.

Most of the waste contains toxic compounds, which leach the soil and diffuse to water underground thereby posing danger of poisoning from harmful substance such as mercury, cadmium, solvents, lead, acids, PVC, and arsenic.

Decomposition of organic waste is anaerobic resulting in the release of methane gas, which contributes significantly to greenhouse emission and climate change. An example is “the Loscoe landfill disaster in Derbyshire in the 1970s, where no one died, but a cottage was blown to pieces due to landfill gas escaping from a nearby capped site” (Labspace n.d).

Alternatives to waste management in the UK

Various alternatives can help the Europe and the UK in effective management of waste especially through prevention, recycling or reusing waste. Although the country may not achieve the prevention approach fully, people should prevent unnecessary wastage. More importantly, the government can implement policies to encourage people and businesses in reusing and recycling waste to achieve greater efficiency.

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Measures to enhance individual responsibility are important because they encourage people to take personal initiative and indoctrinate proper waste management in organisation cultures. Whenever necessary, business should use recyclable materials for packaging because it contributes significantly to wastes. Overall, recycling is a major way of dealing with waste in the United Kingdom with vital steps made toward effectiveness in public places such as sporting arenas, streets, shopping malls and other stations (UK Government n.d).

Dealing with land filling externalities

The government of UK took various measures to manage externalities resulting from land filling. For instance, tax imposed on landfill is the major way of effective management of externalities. There was new tax rates introduced to the previous measures with an aim of discouraging continued land filling. Furthermore, restrictions are in place to hinder wood waste in the waste disposal method.

Policy makers continuously review restrictions on other materials sent to landfill, applicable for biodegradable and textile waste. Stakeholder developed an effective set of incentives to facilitate obtaining of energy from land filling and support technological initiatives to support tapping energy from waste. In dealing with landfilling externalities, local authorities have been major stakeholders because they own landfilling sites and can implement remedial measures including tapping methane (Lehmann 2007).

Landfill is not a market or government failure

Landfill does not illustrate either government or market failure because the strategies implemented aim at cost-effectiveness and efficiency. Various interventions are in place to deal with the problem including direct regulation, market-based approaches, technological programmes, engagement of stakeholders, provision of information and negotiated agreements (Barr 2007).

The market and government implemented various instruments covering regulation and legislation, fiscal incentives, information campaigns and voluntary agreements resulting in efficiency because of low costs and minimal perverse effects.

Therefore selecting the most appropriate intervention is the best way of achieving desirable environmental results in a cost-effective way and without placing unnecessary pressure on the business organisations as well as the entire economy. “Notably, almost 1700 landfill sites have stopped operation since 2001, showing that the country is moving away from landfill as an option for waste management” (Themelis & Bourtsalas n.d).


From the discussion, it is apparent that the United Kingdom implemented various strategies for sustainable waste management. The measures have been mainly successful although there is need for more steps toward further reduction of waste and effective management through appropriate policies and regulations. It is important for stakeholders such as the civil society, government and businesses to cooperate in policy implementation to drive the agenda forward.

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Most of the government commitments and policy guidelines contain or may need supporting documentation with clear stipulation of specific commitment or regulation. The measures enable achievement of sustainable use of resources for economic growth and improving service delivery to business and households.


Barr, S., 2007, ‘Factors Influencing Environmental Attitudes and Behaviors a UK Case Study of Household Waste Management’, Environment and behavior, vol. 39, no. 4, pp. 435-473.

Labspace, Issues in environmental management: beyond the technical fix.” beyond the technical fix. Web.

Lehmann, E. C., Ed, 2007, Landfill research focus. Nova Publishers, New York, NY.

Themelis, N., & Bourtsalas, A., UK Waste Management: Growing old or Growing Clean? Web.

UK Government. Government Review of Waste Policy in England 2011. Web.

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