19 July 2019 by Lucy Pegg

Defra reiterates stance on HWRC charging

Defra has reiterated that it is committed to conducting a review into charges imposed at Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs), after the issue hit national headlines this week.

Both The Telegraph and the Daily Express reported on the move by some councils to charge for disposal of non-household waste at HWRCs, linking it to an increase in fly-tipping and describing the fees as a ‘tax’.

Some councils now charge for the disposal of non-household waste at HWRCs

Councils must allow residents to dispose of household waste free of charge. However, they are able to charge for ‘non-household’ waste which is taken to HWRCs – this could be DIY waste or items like tyres.

Responding to the stories, a Defra spokesperson said: “We have been clear that disposing of household waste, including waste from DIY home improvement projects, should be free of charge. That is why we are planning to review current rules.

“Where local authorities do charge people to get rid of non-household items at household waste recycling centres, they must make sure charges are proportionate and clear to understand.”

Defra review

It was also reported that Defra is launching a review of HWRC charges.

However, Defra has clarified that this is not a new consultation, but part of a review of what can and cannot be charged for that the department is conducting with WRAP and local authorities. This was set out in the litter strategy published in April 2017 (see letsrecycle.com story).

As part of this, WRAP has gathered information from local authorities and produced updated guidance for HWRC charges at the end of 2018.

The report stated that charges can be “counterproductive and may simply transfer costs to dealing with additional fly-tipping and littering”.

WRAP suggested that residents should not be charged for disposing of construction and DIY waste produced by works that an ordinary householder with no specialist skills would be able to undertake. It also warned that if HWRC use is going to be charged local authorities should ensure the fee is reasonable, transparent and does not exceed the cost of providing the service.

Fly tipping

Defra’s spokesperson also claimed that annual figures for fly tipping incidents in England for 2017/18 show no increase on the previous year. There were 997,553 fly tipping incidents reported by local authorities in England in 2017/18.

WRAP surveyed its members in 2017 to assess the link between HWRC charges and increases in fly tipping.

A total of 55 councils responded, of which 20 charged for services. Four councils had seen an increase “but only in line with national trends”, whilst 12 authorities had seen no increase or a minimal impact of fly tipping (see letsrecycle.com story).

Despite the measure being controversial in some areas a number of local authorities now charge residents to use HWRCs to dispose of non-household waste.

Examples include Kent county council, which charges £4 per bag or item for soil, rubble and hardcore items and £6 per bag of plasterboard. These fees were introduced in June this year.

In Nottingham £3 is charged per unit of concrete, rubble, hardcore or ceramics. Plasterboard is charged at £8 per sheet or bag.

Oxfordshire county council charges £1.50 per bag for most non-household waste, with higher prices for items like tyres and plasterboard.

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