Page last updated at 17:57 GMT, Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Councils 'shun recycling scheme'

Rubbish spilling out of wheelie bins is Bristol
Critics say recycling initiative should be locally driven

Local authorities in England and Wales have turned their backs on a government recycling scheme which could have seen those leaving the most waste penalised.

No councils have chosen to take part in a pilot project which would have rewarded frequent recyclers and charged those leaving the most rubbish out.

Opposition parties said the so-called "bin tax" plan was "dead in the water".

Ministers said it was up to councils whether they took part and many had made "great progress" in recycling.


The plan dates back to 2007 when former prime minister Tony Blair said councils should be authorised to charge households putting out the most waste to encourage recycling.

The scheme was subsequently changed to a pilot project - under the terms of the 2008 Climate Change Act - with five councils given the opportunity to take part.

It is absolutely right that and laudable that local authorities are working hard to reduce the amount of waste thrown away
Jane Kennedy, environment minister

But the Department of Environment said on Wednesday that no councils had expressed interest in the project at this stage.

Critics of the scheme, dubbed "pay as you throw", argued that it was widely unpopular and that councils should be free to devise their own recycling schemes on the base of local need.

Environment minister Jane Kennedy said local authorities had requested greater powers to deal with household waste and it was "up to them" whether they chose to use them.

"It is absolutely right that and laudable that local authorities are working hard to reduce the amount of waste thrown away and increase the amount recycled," she said.

"We have seen great progress over the last few years."


Opposition parties said the pilot project, which had it proved successful could have been adopted nationwide by 2013, should now be abandoned.

Bin taxes are now dead in the water
Caroline Spelman, shadow local government secretary

The Conservatives had previously written to all Tory-controlled councils urging them to boycott the scheme.

"Bin taxes are now dead in the water," said Caroline Spelman, shadow local government secretary.

The measures would hit struggling families and lead to an increase in dumping, she added.

"These unpopular new taxes would harm the environment by fuelling fly-tipping and backyard burning."

The Lib Dems said the plan had been given the "cold shoulder".

"Rather than allowing councils to work out how best to improve recycling locally, the government hoped they would agree not only to jump through its hoops but to take the political flak for an unpopular policy," said local government spokeswoman Julia Goldsworthy.

Some councils have said there were no guidelines about how to enforce the policy but ministers said draft guidance was published last summer and councils were consulted on this.

Harrow Council, in north-west London, said it was not "surprised" that there seemed so little enthusiasm for the scheme.

"I think the best way forward is to take residents with you by encouragement to recycle, not by handing out spot fines or extra bills," said Susan Hall, head of environment services.

"That has worked for us..and that has been done by explaining why we recycle and thanking residents for helping us get the results."

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