Valpak's Blog brings to you thought provoking articles, from key members of staff, on a wide range of environmental topics.

Filling the Void: Landfill vs Energy Recovery

Adam Tominski
Mar 01, 2017
Why a tax on landfill?

With landfill tax due to rise again in line with the RPI (Retail Price Index) for 2017, Businesses can expect to see baseline costs increase from £84.40 to £86.10; an increase of £1.70 per tonne or 2%. These costs will continue to rise in the coming years, so now is an opportune time to review the waste you are sending to landfill. You can join our webinar on the 16 March, where will review the effect of the Spring Budget on these costs.

Let’s consider first the where, when, what and why of landfill tax. Landfill tax was first introduced in 1996 as a way to encourage efforts to minimise the amount of waste produced within the UK and increase the uptake of alternatives such as recycling, composting and recovery. It is applicable to all waste which is disposed of to landfill sites, and although the costs stood at just £7 per tonne in 1996, costs have increased each year since.

Between April 2011 and April 2014 Landfill Tax increased by £8 per tonne each year to encourage business to look at ways to reduce the amount of waste sent to Landfill sites. April 2015 saw a change in the way that Landfill Tax was calculated, with increases made in line with the RPI and rounded to the nearest five pence.  This has resulted in the tax moving to £86.10 per tonne from £80 per tonne in 2014. The tax has been remarkably successful in changing behaviours towards landfill use, with the amount of waste being sent to landfill dropping by 70% since 2000.

What is in your waste?

When you want to reduce the amount you’re sending to landfill the best place to start is by conducting a waste audit. Once you know what goes in your bins it is possible to start to analyse and further understand your waste and where it is produced. Ask:

  • Could any of the waste be prevented?
  • Can any waste be re-used e.g. reusing cardboard boxes, shredding materials to use as filling material?
  • Is all the waste in the general waste container actually non-recyclable?

Most of you will know that cardboard, film, paper, bottles and cans can all be recycled, but we often find that in practice recyclables do sometimes find their way in the general waste. Is landfill the only option for the waste if the above options are not possible, could it go to Energy from Waste (EfW), Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) or Solid Recovered Fuel (SRF)? Only in a few situations do we find that landfill is the only option available.

We are seeing much more of a focus on achieving Zero Waste to Landfill and using energy recovery for residual waste. It’s hard to predict the future of the waste industry but we are starting to see the phasing out of landfill sites and by 2020 it’s believed a further 44 landfill sites will close as they reach the end of life, leaving the UK with only around 70 active landfill sites.  This can be considered positive news for landfill avoidance strategies and will undoubtedly lead to additional demands for alternative forms of treatment and recovery.

As more and more waste management companies look to divert waste away from landfill it is expected to drive up the costs of residual waste disposal beyond that of normal inflation rate in response to market forces.  These increased costs are a factor and driving force behind the need to develop more waste to energy plants in the UK and help accelerate businesses recycling strategies.

Waste Hierarchy

Applying the waste hierarchy to your waste will help you to see how costs can be reduced by recovering materials for recycling or preventing the waste in the first place. I and the rest of the Recycling Services team can help you by performing free waste audits and help you to analyse how to get the most out of what is going into your general waste. Should you wish to, we can even help you achieve zero waste to landfill status. If you have any questions or would like to book a waste audit please call 01789 208 715 or email

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this weblog represent those of the individual authors and not those of Valpak Limited or any other organisation.