Research calls for doubling or tripling of landfill tax

New research sponsored by three waste management companies and the Landfill Tax Credit scheme is calling for as much as a tripling of the landfill tax, powers to local authorities to charge for non-separated household waste, and the banning of recyclable materials being sent to landfill.

The study, sponsored by waste management companies Biffa, Shanks and Viridor, has been carried out by the environmental group, the Green Alliance, and calls for an increased target for recycling of municipal waste of 50%, with an overall recycling target of 60%. The group recently launched a series of waste management indicators to the acclaim of the waste management industry and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), and taken up by half of the UK’s waste management companies (see related story).

The Green Alliance has now carried out an investigation of how California, Denmark, Flanders, the Netherlands, Massachusetts, Sweden and Switzerland have introduced, what are by UK standards, radical waste management strategies. The organisation has drawn lessons for how the UK might improve.

The case studies revealed a combination of high recycling rates, up to 50% for total waste – for example, in California – and 30% or over for household waste. This is achieved through instruments such as taxes, in most cases combined with bans on particular waste streams going to landfill or incineration. An increasing number of municipalities see variable charging of households as the most likely way of meeting bans, says the report.

There is no reason why substantially higher recycling rates cannot be achieved in the UK if suitable incentives are put in place, Ben Shaw, Senior Policy Officer at the Green Alliance, told edie. The current handicap to local authorities is the fact that it is not cost effective to achieve higher rates, he explained.

As far as problems associated with developing markets for recycled materials, the research has found that as recycling develops, so does the market for its products. As the aims of the government or municipality become known, so confidence develops in the market. However, high recycling rates for some materials has resulted in market saturation, so that even higher recycling rates will become uneconomical, says Shaw.

Other recommendations include taxes on the use of virgin materials, and additional funding from the landfill tax for the Government’s Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP). The Government also needs to take a lead on waste prevention, and should carry out public awareness campaigns.

So far within Government the Green Alliance’s research has received a sympathetic reception, but any concrete actions have yet to be announced, says Shaw.

This week, at the Environment Agency’s conference in Warwickshire on 22-23 October, Agency Chief Executive Barbara Young also called for a doubling of the Landfill Tax.

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