Councils face tough decisions on waste services

If you look at the direction that local authority budgets are heading, then it is patently clear that councils are either going to have to reduce their costs, increase their income or do a bit of both.


Medium-to-long-term, councils face some very tough decisions about service delivery. To start with, in little over a month’s time, they will be faced with yet another hike in landfill tax.  At the moment, the tax stands at £64 per tonne but from April it will increase to £72 per tonne.  

Couple this with tough and challenging recycling targets and the looming spending cuts mean that council leaders may have to introduce charges for some services that are currently free – for instance asking residents to pay for the council to collect garden waste. The problem is that residents may stop using their green bins entirely and shove the grass cuttings in their black bins.

Getting buy-in from everyone in the local community is major challenge, which is why recycling rates can vary considerably throughout councils. In some areas, where the electorate is fully committed to recycle, the recycling rate can be as high as 90%. However, some residents are completely disengaged and consequently it’s not unusual to find that it is as low as 20%.

Some local authorities are investing heavily to overcome these challenges; visiting local schools to talk to children about the importance of recycling, recruiting local ‘champions’ to drive the message home throughout the wider community or targeting areas where recycling rates are lowest. But these approaches can be resource intensive and not all councils have the budget to do this.

Encouraging residents to compost food waste and garden waste at home and diverting materials away from landfill by promoting reuse are both important. I’d be interested to hear any success stories out there where councils are doing something particularly innovative.

Nick Warburton

Topics: Waste & resource management
Tags: children | cuts | food | Food waste | Reuse
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