How will Brexit affect the environment in Doncaster? What will happen to waste and recycling in Yorkshire post Brexit?

Columnist Kirsty-Jo Muddiman explores how Brexit may affect the environment in the North of England.

Tuesday, 10th September 2019, 12:21 pm
Updated Tuesday, 10th September 2019, 12:35 pm
YouGov surveyed 694 public sector health workers between July 31 and September 4 online

Reported in the national press a couple of weeks ago was the shocking truth of what a no-deal Brexit could mean for the North of England.

Put aside your views on Brexit for the time being and just consider what industry is proposing with regards to God’s Own County.

Whilst we remain in the EU (as I write this, at least), the South of England has less capacity for waste than the waste it produces and so sends “black bin waste” to Europe for processing.

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We also know that recycling is sent to the EU under our current agreement as an EU nation.

Without an exit deal, this black bin waste could have to “start being trucked up to those landfill spaces further up North and stuck in a hole in the ground” according to what the BBC was told by Jacob Hayler, who runs the industry body the Environmental Services Association.

Jacob lives in London.

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According to the BBC, dumps which were previously closed-down may have to be reopened to deal with demand.

In Doncaster alone we have several closed landfill sites; Carcroft, Edlington, Kearsley Lane, Mexborough, Springwell, Wheatley Hills, and Snakey Wood.

Suez, who have the contract for Doncaster’s waste and recycling services, has stated that one of the outcomes of a no-deal Brexit will mean that we have to put more to landfill, acknowledging that environmental performance indicators will be lowered as a direct result of waste exceeding space.

It’s possible that our carefully sorted recycling will end up in landfills, at least in the short-term, whilst the UK catches up with its own waste needs in terms of “energy from waste” plants and recycling processing centres.

Those landfill sites are likely to be closer to us in Yorkshire than they are to the source of the waste in the South.

Whether you class yourself as environmentally conscious or not, no-one wants a landfill site in their local area, especially one taking extra waste from the South.

Deal or no deal, the UK has committed to the EU target of no more than 10% waste going to landfills by 2035.

In 2001 80% of waste went to landfill in the UK and current levels are at 20% owing to EU regulations.

If the UK can’t implement processes required to deal with waste at home quickly, we could miss this target in the long term.

With local councils having contingencies such as using park and rides as temporary waste stores and restricting the number of bin bags per household in the short term, we could see a bin-strike-style revival of waste piling up in our streets and parks.

Vermin will increase if rubbish is left on the streets.

Toxic fumes from uncontrolled waste burning could also result and as we all know how underutilised our park and rides are in Doncaster, we could be looking to have them stacked up with black bag waste whilst industry and the government try to sort out the mess.Doncaster has a pretty high waste per person to landfill rate to start with when compared to the rest of the UK, so if it comes to waste rationing, we’re going to be hard-hit.

The Environment Agency (EA) has confirmed that they will continue to expect the high standards required for licenses and permits to be met and that they will take action where necessary but that’s easy to say before the crisis has happened.

Whether the EA will follow through in the event of a national rubbish crisis remains to be seen.

Furthermore, with the Financial Times claiming that Mr Johnson is aiming to regress from EU standards in terms of the Environment, Social Policy and Employment, it remains to be seen whether the current high standards the EA speak of will still be in place following Brexit at all.

When a government declares their aim is to lower standards for the Environment, Employment and Social Care and contingency plans to deal with rubbish are to “Truck it North”, it’s concerning to say the least when you live in a Northern town of predominantly working class citizens, many of whom rely on social care.

What motives could such a government have and what regard do they have for the North and its environment?