Zero waste in the UK



As a pollutant, waste demands controls. As an embodiment of accumulated energy and materials it invites an alternative.

Publication date: February 2002


Waste policy has become one of the most keenly contested areas of environmental politics. At a local level in the UK and abroad, new sites for landfills and incinerators have provoked degrees of civil opposition matched only by proposals for new roads and nuclear power plants. Nationally and internationally, there has been hand-to-hand fighting in the institutions of governance over clauses, targets and definitions of the strategies and regulative regimes that are shaping a new era for waste management.

For those professionally involved in the waste industry in Britain, it is as though a searchlight has suddenly been shone on an activity that for a hundred years was conducted in obscurity. Throughout the twentieth century, waste was the terminus of industrial production. Like night cleaners, the waste industry had the task of removing the debris from the main stage of daily activity. Some of the debris had value and was recycled. Most was deposited in former mines, gravel pits and quarries or, via incinerators, was ‘landfilled in the air’. The principle was to keep it out of sight. Whereas consumer industries seek publicity, this post-consumer industry prided itself on its invisibility.

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Toon Verberg