Waste management strategy

Waste policies and strategy are developed and set at both the local and national levels, which in turn are influenced by European and international policies and agreements.

Somerset Waste Board decides policy and strategy for waste and recycling services in Somerset on behalf of partner authorities.

Somerset County Council is the Waste Planning Authority for Somerset, excluding Exmoor National Park. The County Council has a statutory duty to produce a minerals and waste local development framework, which is a set of planning documents that outline where minerals extraction and waste management could occur in Somerset. These include the Waste Core Strategy.

The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs published a national review of waste policy and delivery in June 2011, as part of the Government’s commitment to ensure that England is on the path towards a zero waste economy.

Waste management strategy for Somerset

(This section below is due for review and revision in 2016)

Somerset Waste Partnership (SWP) commenced a process to review its strategy and future infrastructure needs in the autumn of 2009. This included significant stakeholder engagement through workshops in late 2009 and spring 2010.

SWP’s conclusion, endorsed by stakeholders, was that movement away from landfill was driven by the waste management hierarchy and, in particular, the environmental cost of landfill rather than any local shortage of capacity or any short term economic advantage. In fact independently verified projections showed that all options for residual waste (after reduction and recycling) would be more expensive than landfill up to at least 2015/16, even allowing for the known impact of the landfill tax escalator.

Waste prevention and recycling

Stakeholders expressed a strong preference to pursue a waste minimisation and recycling led strategy, with plans to drive down average arisings per household and maximise recycling and/or composting of the material that is discarded. This was endorsed by the Board and links well with the County Council’s Waste Core Strategy, which recognises the importance of the waste hierarchy and places waste prevention as policy number one in its strategic policies.

At its meeting on 30 March 2012 the Somerset Waste Board approved the Waste Prevention Strategy for Somerset 2012/13 – 2014/15, which will help to deliver a priority in the Board’s annual business plan to “work with the community to promote waste avoidance and to regard discarded material as a resource by maximising reuse, recycling and recovery”.

Running alongside our waste prevention strategy is SWP’s continued support for recycling, which includes, but is not limited to, Sort It Plus kerbside collections. Since autumn 2011, Sort It Plus has been provided throughout all five districts in the county, adding plastic bottles and cardboard to the list of materials collected at the kerbside, which already included food waste, paper, glass bottles and jars, drink and food cans, foil, clothes and shoes. Since then, aerosols, paper kitchen towel (with food waste) and other textiles were added in July 2012 to kerbside recycling collections.

SWP is looking to further broaden our approach and continue to ensure that recycling levels are pushed as high as they can go. Further materials expected to be included for recycling in time, as end-use markets develop, are, at the kerbside, rigid plastic packaging (pots, tubs and trays), nappies and absorbent hygiene products, small electrical items and portable batteries, and, at recycling sites, carpets and mattresses, as well as more reuse of suitable items. SWP will continue to pursue opportunities to increase reuse and recycling of materials through our services.

Energy recovery

Following stakeholder engagement in 2009/10, the Board concluded that, at 70-90,000 tonnes per annum, Somerset had insufficient residual household waste, remaining after prevention and recycling, for disposal by energy from waste using a dedicated facility with proven technology. At this relatively small scale, there would be a considerable cost premium for an energy from waste facility, even with allowance made to also treat commercial waste arising in the county.

There are other potential options to recover energy from Somerset’s residual waste and move away from landfill disposal, including haulage to a large regional energy from waste facility or use of more novel thermal treatment technologies, which may be able to operate at a scale more in line with Somerset’s residual waste level.