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Much of London is covered by waste disposal authorities which are similar to county councils in having the disposal function. Similar authorities also operate in Greater Manchester and on Merseyside. In some counties, such as Somerset, waste partnerships have been created which organise recycling and waste management across the county. In some instances, individual local authorities have opted not to join the partnerships.
Unlike in some European countries, there is no standardised way of collecting or managing household waste in the UK, meaning that recycling facilities and services vary across the country. However, practically all councils currently offer a kerbside recycling service for at least two materials – with most providing a much more comprehensive service.
Legislation and policy
While it is up to councils how they collect and manage waste, they are heavily influenced by both domestic and European legislation and government policy which has helped to drive recycling rates upwards.
Key drivers include the Landfill Allowance Trading Scheme, a mechanism designed to help meet landfill diversion targets under the EU Landfill Directive. Under this scheme, councils are given a decreasing number of allowances for sending waste to landfill each year which they can trade. Variations of the scheme are in use in Wales and Scotland.This provides an incentive for councils to invest in recycling facilities.
Recycling data is uploaded by councils quarterly to the government’s online WasteDataFlow database and the UK’s devolved administrations publish league tables at the end of each financial year.
Landfill Tax is also an increasingly important driver. First introduced in 1996, this tax is applied to every tonne of waste sent to landfill. It currently stands at £48 a tonne for ‘active’ waste and £2.50 a tonne for ‘inactive’ waste.
Councils are also under enormous pressure to make savings due to sharp public spending cuts in the last Comprehensive Spending Review. This is leading to trends such as the closure of household waste recycling centres and the introduction of charging for green waste collections.
As well as managing household waste, most local authorities also offer charged-for trade waste services to local businesses. In 2010, 65% of councils offered a service for residual waste and 43% offered a recycling service.
On letsrecycle.com we have information concerning the latest achievements by councils, accessed in the left-hand index, and we also have up-to-date information on relevant legislation.