Rubbish tax conditionally welcomed

Industry groups and NGOs have welcomed the news that Government may consider a new tax based on the amount of rubbish produced - but have warned better recycling facilities are needed to make it fair.

In an interview with The Times newspaper last week, Sir Michael Lyons, acting chairman of the Audit Commission, said he was minded to advise the government to consider such a tax.

In July 2004 Sir Michael was commissioned by John Prescott and Gordon Brown to undertake an independent inquiry into local government funding and his remit included looking at ways authorities could raise more money locally.

Targeted taxes such as a charge-by-weight for rubbish produced by householders would encourage more recycling and composting, while ensuring those responsible for the most waste would foot their share of the bill.

Sir Michael told the paper: “I am clear that if people want more services, want to tackle difficult problems like congestion, environmental sustainability and water quality… you can’t just tackle those problems and say you don’t want to pay more tax.”

Environmental campaign group Friends of the Earth said similar schemes had been successfully introduced in parts of the US and Europe with promising results.

“Charging for non recyclable waste is part of the solution, together with good doorstep recycling and composting schemes,” said the group’s waste expert Dr Michael Warhurst.

“Charging for the amount of rubbish thrown away will encourage people to start treating rubbish collection services like electricity, gas and the other utilities. Householders can then save money by cutting their waste.” he said.

Recycling promoters London Remade also welcomed the idea, but said more facilities were needed to avoid unfairly penalising those who did not have access to a decent recycling service.

“Local authorities need to provide more facilities to enable their residents to recycle as much as possible,” said Daniel Silverstone, chief executive of London Remade.

“There are many estates in the capital that simply do not have access to these recycling facilities.

“It wouldn’t be fair for the public to be charged if they put a recyclable material in their rubbish bin because their council cannot provide the necessary facilities.”

Sam Bond

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