Are you giving credit to conservation?

Landfill tax credits have a valuable role to play in protecting the rich and beautiful woodland heritage around us, so make sure yours are put to good use before it's too late. Maxine Perella reports

The gentle pleasures of a summer woodland walk are, for many, a great way to enjoy the outdoors while being close to nature’s biodiversity in all of its various forms. But with natural habitats increasingly under threat, conservation work is vital if woodland heritage is to survive and prosper for generations to come.

One British conservation charity is looking to enlist the support of landfill operators to help this conservation work happen via a fundraising scheme that won’t cost them a penny. Woodland Gems is a new programme run through the Woodland Trust which allows landfill operators to divert a small percentage of their landfill tax to help safeguard ancient woodland, as well as support new native woods, through the planting of native broadleaf trees.

Woodland Gems was borne out of GEMTrust, which was gifted to the Woodland Trust, and set up in January of this year before being officially launched at the Futuresource show in London last June. Gary Roberts manages the programme and says that landfill tax credits are immensely valuable to the Woodland Trust as around 6.8% of the tax paid out can be offset and used for environmental projects.

While the larger waste contractors like Biffa and SITA have their own established landfill communities funds, Roberts believes many of the smaller landfill operators are unaware that small percentage of their landfill tax can be put to good use in this way, or simply don’t have the time to undertake the necessary paperwork to allow it to happen – which is where Woodland Gems can step in. “We offer a service to landfill operators where we can fill in the appropriate forms for them to claim tax credits,” Roberts explains.

He adds that the Woodland Gems programme is keen to develop long-term relationships with landfill operators, where there might be future scope to help restore part of the landfill site, or create and manage new woodland near it through tree-planting exercises. Roberts is also keen to hold talks with local authorities that still own landfill sites, but where the management might be sub-contracted out, as the councils may be able to exert some some influence in this area.

Woodland Gems has made good progress since its launch in the summer – it is close to closing its first deal with an independent operator in Cornwall with another half a dozen in the pipeline – but Roberts acknowledges there is still some way to go. “We have a target to raise £350,000 by the end of June 2010, so if we could sign up 30 to 40 landfill operators within the next few months, we may be on track to reach this.”

He points out that part of the challenge is that many of the landfill sites still open across the UK are owned by the “big six” – the larger contractors – which makes the smaller operators harder to find. And with other sites either no longer active, inert or closing down, there will be a future limit to the amount of revenue that can be raised in this way.

“We would like to tap into those credits that are going to waste – those that are going straight back to the Treasury. As landfills close, I think tax credits in their current form haven’t got a lifespan beyond 10 to 15 years so it’s important to that we talk to as many landfill operators and local authorities as possible to tap into potential funds that might be out there.”

Maxine Perella is editor of LAWR

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