LGA calls for government reforms to unlock £1bn ‘waste goldmine’

If market reforms were pushed through in the municipal recycling sector, it could result in a one billion pound windfall for local authorities and householders, new research suggests.

A review paper Wealth from Waste, released by the Local Government Association (LGA), highlights clear opportunity to derive greater value from waste through government incentives and community reward schemes.

It makes a series of recommendations to boost the domestic market for recyclable materials, which it claims, would an extra £1 billion in revenue by 2020.

Measures being called for include the Treasury refunding landfill tax receipts through councils and the Green Investment Bank to fund the building of new recycling centres.

The LGA would also like to see new industry guidelines drawn up to improve the quality of recycled material produced and sold by the UK waste sector, and the introduction of reward schemes for householders across the nation.

Going beyond current EU recycling targets (50% by 2020) and increasing the amount of household recycling to 70% could offer even greater rewards, generating an extra £3bn in revenue for the UK economy, the study suggests.

Since 2008 successive governments have used punitive measures such as the landfill tax to encourage greater recycling. In the past five years, The Treasury has increased rates of landfill tax per tonne from £24 to a £80, raking in around £3bn – but none of this has been reinvested to help reduce the amount of household waste being sent to landfil.

According to Cllr Clyde Loakes, vice-chair of the LGA’s environment board, by freezing landfill tax at its current rate and reinvesting the money through joint council and private sector waste projects, the Treasury could help boost an important revenue stream for local authorities.

“There is clearly wealth in waste. The UK’s waste and recycling sector is currently worth around £11bn and growing at twice the rate of the rest of the economy, but there is so much more we could do to make the most of this booming industry,” he said.

“Continuing to cream off increasing landfill tax receipts to balance the Government’s books misses a genuine opportunity to turn the UK’s waste and recycling sector into a world leader.”

Maxine Perella

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