This is the verdict of the Local Government Association (LGA), which says the public needs to be aware of the urgency of the situation, and the financial bite they will feel if the problem is not addressed.

The UK is sending more waste to landfill than any other country in Europe and is heading for huge fines if it fails to rein in the amount of waste it is burying in the ground.

Council tax payers are likely to pick up the bill if this happens.

Radical reforms are needed, say council leaders.

Householders, shops, businesses and manufacturers all have a vital role to play in protecting the environment and in cutting the amount of rubbish that is produced and thrown away.

LGA figures suggest at current rates of waste disposal Britain will hit its landfill limit in 2018.

Councillor Gary Porter, chairman of the LGA Environment Board, said: “For decades people used to be able to throw away their rubbish without worrying about the environmental or financial consequences.

“Those days have gone. Taxpayers face huge financial penalties if targets to reduce the amount of rubbish sent to landfill are not met.

“Householders should be congratulated for the efforts they have made in recent years to increase the amount of rubbish they recycle.

“But that doesn’t change the fact that Britain is fast running out of space to dump rubbish in the ground.

“With the current financial squeeze that all councils are facing, it is more important than ever that they work with residents to make sure as much rubbish as possible is recycled to avoid being hit by heavy fines.”

David Gibbs

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