In a speech to environmental lobby group the Green Alliance, Shadow Chancellor George Osborne said Government’s use of fines and taxation was “old fashioned” and “heavy handed”.

He pointed to the example of America, where households in hundreds of cities are paid up to $50 a month by local authorities as an incentive to recycle.

The payments, which vary according to the amount of recycling, are funded by the amount the authorities save in landfill taxes as less waste is being sent to landfill.

“In some communities, it has increased the amount of household waste being recycled by more than 200%,” Mr Osborne said.

“And there is an important equity dimension too. While the poorest households were previously the least likely to recycle, as soon as they start receiving a financial incentive for recycling, they typically become amongst the most likely households to recycle.

“I want to see this innovative approach rolled out across the UK.”

He said the party is working with the Local Government Association, the Mayor of London and Tory local authorities such as those in Windsor and Maidenhead to develop plans for how the scheme will work in the UK.

Reacting to the speech, which covered a number of environmental topics, Stephen Hale, director of Green Alliance, said: “There is much to do to flesh this out in order to develop an approach that delivers.

“But it was heartening to hear his commitment to more work in many areas, so that a Conservative government would be ready, as Osborne put it, to ‘drive forward the environmental agenda from day one.'”

Last month, Defra launched an informal consultation on household waste incentive schemes.

The Chartered Institution for Waste Management has consistently called for pilot schemes to be used to test the effectiveness of financial incentives.

CEO Steve Lee said: “The possible use of incentive charges has caused great debate and media interest over several years, but until these schemes are piloted we are only guessing how effective, how costly and how practicable they will be.”

Kate Martin

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