Our economy has been built on a wasteful pattern: we make short-lived products out of valuable raw materials we dig out of the ground, and then stick them (and the resources that made them) back in the ground as landfill. This no longer makes sense.
The economics are clear. Even broken products contain materials which should be worth enough to keep them out of landfill. Because these products have been difficult to collect and recycle, we continue to lose the resources they’re made of. It turns out that getting materials out of landfill is surprisingly hard. Market signals haven’t been enough on their own.
Our new infographic, Why we need landfill bans, takes a look at end of life vehicles and waste electronics, both of which contain very valuable materials.
It shows that preventing landfilling via the WEEE and EoLV directives have helped make collection better and recycling cheaper. The results are clear: in the US, with no landfill bans, 92 per cent of mobile devices end up in landfill. In the UK, we already collect and reuse or recycle 25 per cent, and will be diverting 80 per cent of mobiles from landfill by 2020.
There’s a similar story for old cars. It’s counterintuitive, but we had to prevent the easy option of landfilling to capture the value of materials, which it made economic sense to capture anyway.
Landfill bans improve the prospect of economies of scale; underpin investment in collection and processing infrastructure; and, when allied with complementary policies, focus on getting more value out of waste. Previous Green Alliance research showed they work best when introduced with enough lead time to let resource management companies build the infrastructure to recycle, reuse, and remanufacture.
Landfill restrictions have clearly worked for cars and mobiles. Extending them to other materials could keep £2.5bn of resources in the economy.
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