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Mechanical Biological Treatment

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Men at a waste processing plant


You've lost me!

Bring me up to speed on this!

Question: Why are all these new technologies being introduced to waste disposal?

Answer: Because our rubbish cannot continue to go to landfills at the rate it has been. It's not sustainable, and besides, the EU is making it illegal for member states to carry on landfilling as fast as we have been.

Question: But rubbish is just waste isn't it?

Answer: Well, it can be a resource, and there's a lot of it that it's a waste to waste!

The following background information should hopefully help to explain why the concept of Mechanical Biological Treatment is being introduced.

The Landfilling Scene in the UK

Landfills vary immensely, but even the most recently developed do not always provide a very sustainable way of getting rid of rubbish. They can cause pollution, and no one wants to live very near to them. Consequently, recent waste policies have based on a recognition of the need to move away from this method of disposal.

The EC Landfill Directive 1999/31 first came into force in the EU on 16 July 1999. However, the implementation has been progressive and many important parts of this law did not come into force in the UK until July 2001, and new parts have generally been enacted most years, (often in July), ever since. The Landfill (England and Wales) Regulations which were introduced in 2002 are possibly the most important.

The main provisions, which have been applied to new and existing landfill sites, since 2004, are:

  • Classification of landfills into three types: hazardous, non hazardous, and inert waste, ending previous UK practice of co-disposing of hazardous and non-hazardous waste in the same landfills;
  • Bans on the disposal of certain wastes in landfill, including liquid wastes, certain hazardous wastes, and tyres;
  • The treatment most wastes before landfill enacted in Autumn 2007;
  • Introduction of waste acceptance criteria setting out types of waste to be accepted at each of the three types of landfill.

The UK has been given four extra years by the EU to meet some of the requirements of the Directive because we are currently so dependent on landfill.

Landfill Statute

The statutory instruments under which landfills are regulated in the UK (England & Wales) are:
(2006: Links have been removed and this Table is due for updating - please check.)

For compliance with the EU Landfill Directive:

Statutory Instrument 2002 No. 1559:The Landfill (England and Wales) Regulations 2002


For compliance with the EU Integrated Pollution Prevention & Control Directive

Draft Statutory Instrument 2000 No.
The Pollution Prevention and Control (England and Wales) Regulations 2000


The Scottish Executive and the Northern Ireland Assembly have implemented separate legislation to implement these Directives.

In the video below you will see a glass recycling scheme, which is an example of the initial voluntary pre-segregation of recyclable materials, which form part of the waste strategy for the diversion of waste away from landfills by increased recycling.


In January 2008 Joan Ruddock MP gave the UK Government's waste diversion policy (England) as follows:-

  • Waste prevention has a new target to reduce the amount of household waste not re-used, recycled or composted, from over 22.2 million tonnes in 2000 to 15.8 million tonnes in 2010 with an aspiration to reduce it further to 12.2 million tonnes in 2020.
  • Higher national targets have also been set for: the recycling and composting of household waste – at least 40% by 2010, 45% by 2015 and 50% by 2020; and for the recovery of municipal waste – 53% by 2010, 67% by 2015 and 75% by 2020.

In early 2008 the Scottish assembly announced that a plan for Scotland based upon a target of zero waste to landfill.



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