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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 August 2007, 14:01 GMT 15:01 UK
'Many' support pay-as-you-throw
Rubbish bins
The LGA said the schemes would promote recycling
Almost two-thirds of people would support a "pay-as-you-throw" system of collecting household waste, a Local Government Association survey suggests.

Its poll of 1,028 people found 64% in favour of lower council tax and charges according to how much rubbish people put out, with recyclers paying less.

The LGA has detailed three possible schemes for England and Wales.

The Conservatives said such schemes would not bring lower council tax bills and fly-tipping would increase.

Shadow Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said the overall burden of taxation would have to rise to cover administration and enforcement costs of waste charges.

"Bin taxes will lead to a huge increase in fly-tipping and backyard burning," he added.

And Blair Gibbs, campaign director of the TaxPayers' Alliance lobby group, said: "People may be prepared to accept variable charging as an issue of fairness but cuts in council tax would have to be in the order of 20 a month to justify charging.

"No current proposals guarantee that council tax will be reduced at that level to compensate."

Public support

The LGA survey comes after the government finished consulting on its Waste Strategy for England 2007, which was published in May and set out how bin charges would work.

It proposed a system of charges and rewards, such as annual council rebates for those who recycle. It said any such schemes would have to be "revenue neutral", bringing no overall increase in local taxes.

I suspect it would lead to an increase in fly-tipping
Eliza Wright

A Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs spokeswoman said: "We would need to change the law to introduce variable waste charges and it might be possible to do something in the Climate Change Bill.

"It would be a voluntary option and local authorities could only take it up if they had the infrastructure to enable people to recycle."

The LGA said its survey showed public support for changing the law to allow councils to introduce waste charges.

It has set out three possible schemes for England and Wales:

  • Householders buy different sized pre-paid rubbish sacks, which it says would be practical in urban areas
  • Wheelie bins fitted with microchips allowing rubbish to be weighed as it is dumped into the refuse truck
  • Homes choose the size of their wheelie bin and are charged accordingly

The LGA said any scheme would be dependent on local circumstances and would have to be supported by residents.

Cllr Paul Bettison, chairman of the LGA's environment board, said: "If councils introduce save-as-you-throw schemes, it will be to promote recycling, not generate extra cash through an extra stealth tax.

"There is now strong public support for schemes that reward people for recycling and councils should be given the power to introduce these where it is appropriate to do so."

Fortnightly collections

The IPSOS Mori poll for the LGA also found 23% of those surveyed were against waste charges, with 15% strongly opposed.

The association added that schemes elsewhere in Europe where households pay by weight, volume, or use pre-paid sacks have led to dramatic reductions in household waste and much higher recycling rates.

It also warned that if local authorities failed to act to cut the use of landfill, councils and council taxpayers could face EU fines of up to 3bn over the next four years.

UK households recycle on average about 25% of their rubbish

The UK produces more waste per head of population than many of its European neighbours and also has one of the worst recycling rates.

The government has been looking at a series of measures to meet EU landfill targets, which demand a 25% reduction on 1995 levels by 2010 and a 65% cut by 2020.

In some places, it has introduced controversial fortnightly bin collections, alternating between landfill waste and recyclable waste, but this policy was recently criticised by MPs.

They said it was not appropriate for inner cities and there was no proof it increased recycling.

Last week, the government also announced possible plans to increase the number of recycling bins placed next to public litter bins, in an effort to encourage more recycling away from the domestic environment.

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