Page last updated at 19:44 GMT, Wednesday, 26 November 2008
Throw away Britain

By Roger Harrabin
BBC Environment Analyst

Throw Away Britain
Controversial pay-as-you-throw schemes could be an acceptable answer to Britain's 15 million tonne mountain of household waste according to a survey for BBC News.

From January English councils will be able to bid for pilot schemes to incentivise people for recycling more and deter them from throwing stuff away.

Previous pay-as-you-throw pilots were abandoned, but the survey showed 79% of women and 70% of men saying they should be rewarded financially if they create less waste and recycle more.

A much narrower majority - 55% of women and 50% of men - said it was only fair they should pay more if they throw away more.

The poll of 1,000 people by NOP offers some encouragement to the British government, which is encouraging councillors to try pay-as-you-throw pilots. Europe is running out of landfill sites and all nations face targets to increase the amount they recycle into new materials.

Just over 70% of both women and men said they would be more careful about creating waste if they had to pay for it to be collected.

But councils may be alarmed by another finding - 46% of men and 41% of women said they did not trust their local authority to administer any new waste charges fairly.

And the narrowness of the margin of people in favour of extra charges may also cause councils to pause.

To recycle or not to recycle?

Ministers are hoping to attract English local authorities to bid for the pay-as-you-throw schemes permitted in the Climate Change Bill, which passes its final hurdle this week.

But previous pilot charging schemes have been hugely controversial, with a computerised chip-and-bin system in South Norfolk being abandoned after repeated technical failures and delays to bin rounds.

Eric Pickles, Conservative local government spokesman, has regularly criticised the "hated bin taxes"; and under pressure, the government has previously sent out mixed messages about whether or not variable charging would go ahead.

This is now resolved, but it looks as though most councils in the UK have been warned off variable charging because of the controversy attached.

Every town or local authority should have an incinerator and use all of this rubbish to provide power to their locality
K. Brown

But Paul Bettison, a Conservative councillor responsible for waste on the Local Government Association said: "I wish Eric Pickles would stop calling them bin taxes. It is very galling.

"They are bin charges. They are not taxes at all. You pay for the service you get. The current system of invisible waste charges is much more like a tax.

"I know what it is like to be in opposition, but many of us Conservatives are in power in local authorities, trying to run waste services, and he is not helping us."

Councillor Bettison said the official Conservative policy of promising a return to weekly bin collection would cost up to 2bn a year if it prompted people to turn away from recycling because councils would have to pay more landfill tax.

This figure had not been costed by the party, he said.

A Conservative party spokesman said: "Paul Bettison is arguing that the only way to increase recycling and avoid landfill penalties is by cutting weekly collections. We utterly reject that underlying assumption."

He said the loss of weekly collections had led to 213 million rise in fly-tipping. And he said pay-as-you-go schemes would cost so much more to administer that savings on collection could be wiped out.

Mr Bettison told BBC news he would be been banned by Conservative Central Office from debating the issue with Mr Pickles, but the Tories later said Mr Pickles had been prepared to debate with him, and would be prepared to debate with him in future

We asked Mr Bettison what he would say to Mr Pickles. He said that would be removed by a spam filter.

The Environment Minister Jane Kennedy responded to the BBC survey, saying: "It is encouraging that such a high proportion of people recognise the responsibility we all share to dispose of our waste in a way that reduces our impact on the environment.

"It is for local authorities to decide on the solutions that work best in their areas and we have provided them with all of the measures that they requested in order to do so."

There are no plans for pay-as-you-throw in Scotland and Northern Ireland but variable charging is being considered in Wales.

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