Landfill tax raised to encourage alternative waste disposal

The British Government is to increase the rate of landfill tax in an attempt to "send a strong signal" to waste producers and to encourage waste managers and local authorities to consider alternatives to landfill.

The standard rate of landfill tax will rise from £7 to £10 a tonne on 1 April 1999. The standard rate will rise by another £1 a tonne a year from 1 April 2000 until 1 April 2004 when the National Waste Strategy will be subject to further review.

“The Chancellor’s announcement that landfill tax will increase by £1 per year, will help waste producers and managers, as investors need long lead times to develop alternative waste management facilities,” said ESA Chairman Edouard Dupont-Madinier. “I am delighted that inert waste being used for landfill restoration will be tax exempt from 1 October 1999. ESA looks forward to working with Customs on the detail of the regulations and guidance. But it would be logical to extend this exemption to waste being re-used for essential landfill engineering.”

However, Dupont-Madinier warned of the dangers of increasing the tax without closing waste management loopholes, that “currently allow rubbish to go to sites not requiring a waste management licence or planning permission . . . without more effective regulation by the Environment Agency, more waste will be illegally fly tipped,” he said.

Friends of the Earth (FoE) welcomed the Budget increase in landfill tax as “an important step” in reducing waste and improving the UK’s use of resources.

The group especially welcomed the £1 per year increase as part of a planned and long-term commitment to tackle the UK’s waste problems. But while FOE supports the Government’s intention to see some of the revenue used to fund recycling, it is concerned that landfill companies will have control of the money and the chance to spend it on other projects.

Mike Childs, Senior Waste Campaigner at Friends of the Earth said: “Gordon Brown’s landfill tax hike sends a strong signal that the Government is determined to reduce waste and increase recycling. At last we may see the UK improving its dismal performance on recycling and catch up with the rest of Europe. More recycling means more jobs and less pollution. On waste, this is a good news budget.”

The UK has one of the poorest recycling rates in the developed world. At only 7 per cent it lags behind Austria (24 per cent), Netherlands (28 per cent), Canada (29 per cent) and Switzerland (42 per cent).

Environment Minister Michael Meacher MP has described the UK’s recycling performance as “frankly pathetic”. The UK produces 423 million tonnes of waste every year, 70 per cent of which is disposed of in around 2000 landfills. Landfill in the UK is amongst the cheapest in Europe.

The Environmental Bodies scheme, which allows landfill tax money to be spent on environmental projects, is being amended to allow the funding of recycling. Regulations to change the scheme will come into force on 1 August 1999.

Under the scheme, landfill companies can divert 20 percent of landfill tax liabilities to environmental projects of their choice, as long as the project is approved by the regulator ENTRUST.

Projects that have been funded to date include amenity work near landfill sites (for example, renovation of churches, playgrounds), funding of wildlife schemes and research into waste management.

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