UK should learn from European waste charges

Councils in Britain should follow the example of our European neighbours and charge wasteful households more for their rubbish collection.

This was call of Friends of the Earth in response to the announcement that recycling rates for municipal waste continue to rise steadily in the UK (see related story).

While the pressure group has welcomed the news that rates are improving, it argues a more dramatic rise to bring the country in line with Europe’s top recyclers would be possible with more radical action.

At the moment householders in the UK pay a fixed rate for their waste disposal as part of their council tax.

Under the FoE’s suggested strategy, this would be replaced by a variable rate so that good recyclers would be rewarded while those who produce more rubbish would have to pick up the bill for their wastefulness.

Such schemes are commonplace in countries with high recycling rates where they have typically led to an increase of 30% to 40% in recycling and composting.

There is significant, though not overwhelming, support for such schemes within local government, with a recent survey suggesting around 40% of recycling officers keen to introduce charging according to the NGO.

It accepted any introduction of this kind of pay-per-bag recycling might lead to a surge in fly-tipping and said adequate measures to combat this would have to be put into place.

Georgina Bloomfield, recycling campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said:

“Most people in the UK pay a fixed rate for waste management in their

council tax and this means there is no economic incentive for them to

reduce their waste or to recycle and compost.

“If we are serious about tackling waste then we need to give councils the power to charge householders a variable rate according to the amount they produce.

“Such schemes are common in Europe and have dramatically reduced waste and improved recycling rates.”

By Sam Bond

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie