Major landfill closure marks the rise of responsible recycling

After 50 years of operation, the iconic Packington Landfill has recently closed its gates for the last time.

Once the busiest landfill site in Europe, the Birmingham site has collected an estimated 35 million tonnes of waste throughout its lifetime.

The demand for landfill as a waste management solution is falling rapidly. In 2009, 90% of the country’s waste was being sent to landfill; it is currently around 50%, and it is predicted to be just 10% by 2020.

SITA, the company who manage the site, point to the introduction of landfill tax in 1996 and subsequent annual price increases as the main reason they have seen such a significant change, as environmentally-friendly alternatives became more attractive. David Palmer-Jones, CEO of SITA, commented: ‘it’s quite stark; this shift in our industry. Certainly, you are not going to invest in landfill in the future; the landfill tax makes it an unprofitable business… it’s uneconomical for us to continue’.

As the demand for landfill space fell, SITA have introduced composting, wood shredding and electricity production. The site will remain active for an estimated 30 years, continuing these sustainable waste management practises.

Technically, the site is a ‘land raise’ – at around 59 meters high where once the land was flat, it can be seen towering over nearby roads and the Birmingham NEC Arena. The future of the man-made hill looks to be somewhat different to its past. Layers of soil and a plastic membrane will eventually be covered in grass, to create an open green space of meadows and woodland, with clear, unobstructed views over Birmingham.

But Packington is not alone; landfill sites all over the UK are closing down, as demand is dramatically falling. According to The Guardian, the annual volume of waste sent to landfill in the UK has fallen from 100 million tonnes in 1997 to less than 39 million tonnes in 2013.

So what does this mean for the UK?

The closure of landfill sites like Packington is a direct result of the UK’s progress towards environmentally sustainable waste management practises. The landfill tax clearly had the desired effect, and encouraged businesses to make environmentally sustainable choices for both ethical and financial reasons. Increased public awareness has also influenced the increased demand for alternative waste management solutions.

At Recycling Lives, we are committed to diverting waste from landfill and promoting recycling and reuse as sustainable alternatives. Our range of services, from scrap metal and waste processing to community recycling programmes, offer guaranteed responsible recycling without compromising on exceptional service levels. We also sustain a social welfare charity through our commercial services, providing support for homeless and disadvantaged individuals. To find out more about Recycling Lives and how we can help you, go to www.recyclinglives.com.

With landfill fast becoming a thing of the past, suggestions of a zero waste future – where all resources are recovered, recycled and reused – seems as though it could be within reach.