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Rob on the road Friday, 1 November, 2002, 10:48 GMT
Taxing tips
a recycling company in Northamptonshire
Recycling companies should do well out of a new tax
To stand on a landfill site anywhere in Britain is to understand why there's such a strong emphasis on recycling both at home and at work.

Lorries carrying waste from building sites, offices and houses ply their way through the mud to dump their cargo into giant holes carved out of fields in the countryside.

Thousands of seagulls wheel through the sky or pick their way through the piles of rubbish in search of food.

Filling up

Britain's landfill sites are filling up fast.

Northamptonshire alone produces two million tonnes of landfill every year - that's enough to fill 185 football pitches to a depth of six feet.

What's more it's expensive too, and about to become even dearer.

For every tonne of debris the tipper has to pay a landfill tax. At the moment it's 13 per tonne. But the chancellor is expected to raise that substantially in his November budget.

Gap

Many experts believe the cost could eventually go up to as much as 40 per tonne over the next three years.

Some see it as an attempt by the chancellor to plug a gap in his budget caused by falling tax returns as the economy slows.

If that is the case it would only be a short term fix.

A new tax would raise hundreds of millions of pounds, but the gap is billions of pounds.

What's more, returns would slowly diminish as businesses and councils became more adept at recycling.

Empty cans and bottles
Cans and bottles can be recycled
More convincing is the argument that the chancellor sees it as the only way to force people into recycling more.

It's reckoned Britain recycles about 11% of its waste. Most of our nearest neighbours in Europe recycle between 40% and 50%.

If the tax does rise though, it could prove a major headache for councils.

Northamptonshire

In Northamptonshire the county council currently pays around 3m a year in landfill tax. If it rises to the predicted levels that would go up to 7m.

Now the council's got all its colleagues in the county's districts and borough councils to get together to draw up a strategy to increase it. It needs it.

Across Northamptonshire the performance varies from some of the worst in the country to some of the best.

Last year Corby Borough Council managed to recycle just 3% of the household waste it collected.

The council insists that it's made a lot of progress since then and the figure is slowly rising.

But it accepts that more needs to be done, particularly to educate local people in the virtues of recycling.

Mind you, if our e-mail is anything to go by, Working Lunch viewers don't need any educating.

E-mails

One viewer from Corby said the council wasn't doing enough to help and that local recycling centres were often left overflowing with rubbish without anyone taking it away.

Paper being recycled
Paper can be taken out of rubbish
Meanwhile, in nearby Daventry, another viewer praised the district council there. It's one of the best performing authorities in the country - each house has four bins.

Residents sort their rubbish into garden and vegetable waste, household rubbish and there's also a collection for paper, cardboard and bottles, glasses and cans.

The drive to increase landfill tax will force more councils to follow their example. It will also force more businesses to make sure more of their waste is recycled, putting less pressure on our landfill sites.

Good news for everyone it would seem, unless you happen to be a seagull.

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