England’s municipal waste regime: challenges and prospects

Nicky Gregoson*, Peter Forman

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

This paper provides a synthetic account of England’s municipal waste regime at the end of the 2010s. In technical-material terms, the regime, previously heavily dependent upon landfill, is now characterised by energy-from-waste and recycling and/or composting in fairly equal measure. This infrastructural transformation, enacted over some 20 years, has been underpinned by the financialisation and marketisation of England’s municipal waste. Residual waste has been constituted as a financial asset whilst both residual waste and materials collected for recycling are the basis for further commodity production. The corporate landscape is dominated by large, European-based transnationals. As well as documenting the regime and its emergence, the paper highlights, and accounts for, the multiple challenges it now faces – chiefly, the technical failure of residual waste solutions which necessitate a continued reliance on landfill for some councils, the collapse of the export markets on which England’s resource recovery has depended, and a radically changed policy landscape that seeks to move England towards a more circular economy. We suggest that local authorities’ waste infrastructure, procured in response to a linear economy, threatens and is threatened by these new policy directions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalThe Geographical Journal
Early online date19 Jun 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Jun 2021

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