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EDITIONS
Thursday, 11 July, 2002, 13:11 GMT 14:11 UK
No 10 to consider refuse charges
UK landfill site
The radical plans aim to cut the waste mountain
A controversial plan to charge householders to have their rubbish removed could go before the government in as little as two months.

A charge is being considered by Whitehall's performance and innovation unit (PIU) as part of a report on waste disposal that it is due to present to Downing Street.

But the government has been quick to make it clear the controversial move was not government policy and the group's job was simply to "think the unthinkable".


Yet another new tax from this government of taxes won't solve anything

Eric Pickles, Conservatives
The charge could be as much as 1 a sack or 5 a month

Alternatively, charges could be based on the weight of rubbish collected, with dustcarts fitted with scales to weigh each wheelie-bin.

Bills for rubbish could be coupled with free doorstep collection of waste for recycling.

A Downing Street spokesman said the report from the PIU would be considered.

"It's a think tank, they are there to think the unthinkable, but because they do that it doesn't mean it becomes government policy," he said.

'New tax'

"There is an issue about how we deal with waste. Some argue that this is one route we could go down."

But the idea received a cooler reception from shadow local government secretary Eric Pickles, who said it would "almost impossible" to manage.

"Yes we need to face up to the problem, and yes we need to encourage more recycling, but yet another new tax from this government of taxes won't solve anything and will hit those who can't afford to pay the most," he said.

A spokesman for the department of environment, food and rural Affairs (Defra) said a review of waste strategy was due to report in the autumn.

Plastic bags full of rubbish in London's Oxford Street
1 charges per bag could be introduced
He said: "Variable household charging is clearly an issue which falls within the scope of that work and the PIU has invited views on the issue on its website.

"Defra ministers and the government as a whole are keen for the review to consider all the possible options for delivering government objectives on waste".

The plans would help meet a European Union directive aimed at reducing the 1,400 landfill sites in the UK over the next eight years.

The Guardian reports that the treasury would like to launch a series of pilot schemes by local authorities to experiment with different systems.

Flat charge

The most likely system would be a charge for each sack of rubbish - possibly allowing each household one or two free sacks a week - and levying a charge of up to 1 on each extra sack.

Another option would be a flat charge on every household - for example, 5 a month - that filled up more than two sacks a week.

The report will also consider whether charging should be introduced at household waste tips except where people are dumping rubbish for recycling


A charge seems the only way at the moment to encourage people to recycle

Clare Oxborrow
Friends of the Earth
But there may be no firm recommendation in favour of charging due to fears about fly tipping.

Household waste is still growing by 3% a year with many councils a long way from meeting targets to recycle a quarter of their rubbish by 2005.

Environmental charities have welcomed the proposals.

Friends of the Earth spokeswoman Clare Oxborrow told BBC News Online that it was shocking how far the UK was lagging behind its recycling targets.

She said a "carrot and stick" seemed to be needed to encourage recycling.

"A charge seems the only way at the moment to encourage people to recycle.

"But we want people to understand that recycling is to create a sustainable society."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Tom Heap
"They want us to get our hands dirty and sort the rubbish so it is easier to recycle"
See also:

04 Mar 02 | Europe
04 Mar 02 | Europe
20 Jun 02 | UK Politics
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