Charge-by-weight schemes need careful planning

Weighing already plays a vital role in monitoring waste collections and charging contractors by weight at waste sites is now well established. The technology for weighing and recording individual household waste collection is certainly available but the logistics and costs involved are immense. To many, the introduction of a "charge-by-weight" system will be seen as just yet another stealth tax without sound basis. If careful planning and thought is not given to any scheme, implementing such charges is likely to suffer the same fate as the Poll Tax. Honest and upright members of society will probably comply with any legislation, whilst others will look to ways of cheating the system. Trying to enforce new legislation will be very difficult and I'm sure it will bring about increased fly tipping and more trips to the local waste site.

The logic behind such schemes appears to make sense. Encourage us to recycle more by charging us for the disposal of non-recycled products by weight.

Need for infrastructure

I am strongly in favour of the principles of recycling, but for any system to work effectively there must be an adequate infrastructure in place, not just to deal with domestic waste but also waste from industry and retail organisations. There is no doubt that we are well behind our European neighbours and most Western countries when it comes to having an effective recycling structure in place.

It has to part of a fully integrated waste disposal and recycling programme where everyone from suppliers through to consumers sign up. I don’t believe the consumer should bear the brunt of any new charging system. Much of our waste comes from over zealous packaging designed to attract us to the product and, in many instances, to prevent shoplifting. In effect we are paying twice, once for the packaging and then for its disposal.

Current domestic recycling systems are far from perfect and coverage is patchy and uncoordinated across the UK. Unfortunately it appears the authorities have, in many cases, hurriedly introduced recycling schemes to comply with Government targets to show “we’re doing something to save our planet”. For instance weekly recycling collection will accept thin card but not corrugated card. Should the householder use fuel to then take this to the local waste site, burn it or put it in the wheelie bin?

Total Materials Recovery

There is an argument that says the onus of recycling should be taken away from the householder altogether and perhaps waste collection revenue could be better used to invest in Total Materials Recovery facilities. Such facilities are already operating successfully in a number of countries and are proving to be very successful. These facilities can sort a mixture of household discards to recover organics (food, garden waste, and all paper), glass and plastic bottles, steel and aluminium cans. They can even remove paper labels from cans and bottles and even removes the contents of cans. Results indicate that plants can recover in excess of 70% of the waste input for recycling.

To conclude, I am sure that just introducing a charging system for domestic waste will not solve the problems facing future generations. There is no doubt we have to do something to control our rapidly increasing production of waste but any scheme should not be politically motivated and must encompass all aspects.

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