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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 May 2007, 19:14 GMT 20:14 UK
Bin charges 'to boost recycling'
Rubbish
The government is keen to reduce household waste
People who fail to recycle household rubbish could have to pay more than those who do, under plans to cut waste.

Environment Secretary David Miliband wants English councils to be able to bring in charges - and to give cash "rewards" for those who recycle.

The Waste Strategy gives examples which suggest "green" homes could get 30 a year back from their council, while non-recyclers pay an extra 30.

It also suggests a clampdown on direct mail and free plastic shopping bags.

Unveiling the first waste strategy for England since 2000, Mr Miliband said the country was still "lagging far behind much of Europe" on waste, despite increased recycling.

He told MPs the government would set higher recycling targets for businesses and local councils.

HAVE YOUR SAY
I'm happy to separate my rubbish but it would help if there was not so much packaging in the first place.
Adrian Mugridge, Chester, UK

Mr Miliband said councils who wanted to introduce variable charges for rubbish would have to provide adequate kerbside recycling facilities.

Councils would also not be able to use the charges to raise extra funds, and would have to take into account size of households, whether people had young children or whether they were on council tax benefit.

It would be up to councils to decide if they want to operate such a system and what system they want to use.

Examples in a consultation document published alongside the Waste Strategy include the "Flanders" wheelie bin-weighing system and the "Maastricht" system where special sacks have to be bought for non-recycled rubbish.

Junk mail

The proposals also push the development of local waste crime strategies to tackle fly-tipping and things like people dumping their non-recycled rubbish in their neighbour's bins.

Among wider measures he said the government would also consult with industry to minimise the amount of packaging used around products.

He also unveiled a clampdown on junk mail, saying he had reached a voluntary deal with the Direct Marketing Association to allow people to "opt out" of receiving unaddressed letters.

Contents of typical UK dustbin

He said this could be extended to allow junk mail to only be sent to people who actively opt-in to direct mail.

"Our key objectives are less waste, more re-use and recycling, more energy from waste and less landfill." Mr Miliband told MPs.

Prime Minister Tony Blair later told BBC Newsnight that the recycling push was aimed at reducing carbon emissions.

Public opinion

"The truth is that if we continue to generate massive landfill then we will end up generating the emissions that harm our environment."

He said: "All the evidence, and this is changing very fast as an issue, is that the better our waste strategy, the better the reduction in emissions, it gives us a far greater chance then to make a real difference on this issue.

"You've not to try to do too much, you've got to try to take public opinion with you, but I think public opinion is wanting action on this issue."

But Peter Ainsworth, for the Conservatives, accused Mr Miliband of producing a "tentative" package of measures when people wanted "decisive" action.

"He wants a voluntary arrangement with the industry to cut hugely unpopular and unnecessary packaging but a system of fines for households struggling to cope with waste packaging they did not want in the first place

"Where are the measures to tackle fly tipping? Where are the incentives to help people to do the right thing?" asked Mr Ainsworth.

Digesters

The EU Landfill Directive requires member states to cut the amount of biodegradable municipal waste being sent to landfill sites. It requires a 25% reduction on 1995 levels by 2010, and a 65% cut by 2020.

The government has clearly listened to the LGA's view that any proposed household rubbish charging must not be imposed nationally on councils
Sandy Bruce-Lockhart
LGA chairman

About a third of councils now collect rubbish one week and recycling the next in a fortnightly system intended to hit recycling targets and cut waste, but householders have expressed concerns about rubbish left rotting for two weeks.

Food waste is converted into this gas in digesters, and can then be used to produce heat and electricity.

Mr Miliband told MPs it would be up to individual local authorities to decide when refuse collections took place.

'Belated attempt'

The Local Government Association (LGA) said Mr Miliband's waste targets would be "impossible to achieve without proper government investment".

Methods of household waste disposal

But LGA chairman Sandy Bruce-Lockhart said: "The government has clearly listened to the LGA's view that any proposed household rubbish charging must not be imposed nationally on councils."

He said it was "vital" for councils considering 'save as you throw' schemes to guarantee there would be no increase in council tax and measures were in place to prevent fly-tipping.

Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Chris Huhne said the waste strategy was a "belated attempt" to improve Britain's efforts towards environmental waste.

He called for a "more ambitious" plan, including curbing excess packaging, prosecutions for unnecessary packaging, and boosting reuse schemes for bottles and other containers.

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Reaction to the "pay as you throw" proposals



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