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Wednesday, 27 November, 2002, 21:27 GMT
Landfill tax set to rise
Tractor on landfill   AP
There's not much room inside: Landfills are filling up
Landfill tax will increase by 3 a metric ton from 2005-6 in a bid to tackle Britain's growing levels of waste, the government has signalled.

Chancellor Gordon Brown announced the proposal in his pre-Budget report, in which he outlined his plans for the coming year.

Waste targets
Half of households to be home composting by 2006
30% of councils to try recycling incentives by 2006
Boost recycling to 45% of households by 2015
Cut the amount of waste going to landfill by 2007
Among a series of other government targets announced on Wednesday, more local councils will try out rewards for households recycling waste and penalties for those who do nothing.

Mr Brown said the government would "consult on a revenue neutral proposal" to raise the landfill tax from its current 13 per ton, by 3 per ton per year.

At the moment it increases by 1 a year so the change would create a new tax escalator.

"We have a commitment to protect the environment for our children and future generations," Mr Brown told the Commons.

He is also planning a 20p a litlre tax cut for the green bioethanal road fuel.

Friends of the Earth greeted the measures as "a step in the right direction but inadequate".

FoE's Mike Childs said Mr Brown's measures would "only move the UK from the Conference league for recycling to Division Two".

UK has 'worst record in Europe'

The proposals were prepared by the Cabinet Office's Strategy Unit, which has been working on them for a year.

Among other targets, it wants half of households to be carrying out composting by 2006.

Environmentalists say the UK has one of Europe's worst records on recycling.

The strategy unit offers this summary of its work: "The aim of the Waste Project is to explore a variety of policy options to allow England to meet the European Union (EU) Landfill Directive and to move to a more sustainable waste management system."

Prodigal discarders

Under new EU legislation the UK will have to ensure that less than a third of its waste is sent for burial in landfill sites by 2020. The figure at present is about 80%.

Even then, there will still be large amounts of waste which can neither be recycled nor sent to landfills.

Dustman with bin   BBC
Why no doorstep recycling collections?
The Environment Agency says space for landfills in south-east England could run out within seven years.

The average British household produces roughly a tonne of waste a year. About 80% of it is suitable for recycling or composting.

The UK recycles about 11% of domestic waste, compared with more than half in countries like Switzerland and Austria.

The other obvious way of disposing of waste has been to burn it in purpose-built incinerators.

European recycling and composting
Austria 64%
Belgium 52%
Germany 48%
France 14%
UK 11%
But there is fierce resistance from most communities where the government plans to build incinerators, because of suspected risks to health.

Some experts say incinerators should pose no problem if they are operated properly at sufficiently high temperatures.

Plastic phase-out

Environmental campaigners are heartened by the experience of Ireland, has introduced a tax on plastic bags, charging about 10 pence (15 cents) for each bag.

Bulldozer on tip   BBC
Recycling could relieve landfills

Friends of the Earth thinks an important part of the solution to waste here would be a doorstep recycling collection service for every household in Britain.

The MP Joan Ruddock is to introduce a Bill in the House of Commons ensuring that such a service is provided. Nearly 400 MPs have backed the idea.

The cost of delay

The waste industry itself is concerned that the problem threatens to become increasingly hard to manage.

Peter Jones, a director of Biffa Waste Services, said: "Waste management will be in crisis in five years and cost the UK economy an additional 2bn per year...

Seventy-five per cent of household, commercial and industrial waste is thrown into holes in the ground.

"This is not rocket science. If we fail to act and attain levels of recycling achieved by our European partners a decade ago, we face European fines, increased taxes and a lack of competitiveness."

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See also:

19 Nov 02 | Wales
12 Nov 02 | England
23 Oct 02 | Politics
21 Oct 02 | Science/Nature
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