The government is to review guidance around charges for the disposal of waste at household waste recycling centres (HWRCs), in order to ‘make clear’ the law around charging the public for the service.
And, work will also be carried out into the feasibility of systems including a potential deposit return scheme for drinks containers – to examine the potential cost and impact of such a scheme.
These are among a host of measures aimed at combating the causes of littering and fly-tipping outlined in the government’s Litter Strategy for England, which was published today (10 April).
Legislation passed by government in March 2015 – the Local Authorities (Prohibition of Charging Residents to Deposit Household Waste) Order – prohibits councils from charging residents for the use of household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) either at the point of entry, exit or disposal.
Several councils have sought to introduce charges for the use of HWRCs for what is considered ‘non household’ waste streams, in particular DIY waste from home renovations. This could include materials such as plasterboard, carpets, or kitchen or bathroom fittings.
Guidance highlighted by the government, which is contained within WRAP’s HWRC Guide, last updated in January 2016, suggests that DIY waste is classed as household waste: “…if it results from work a householder would normally carry out.”
“Our litter strategy will tackle this antisocial behaviour by building an anti-litter culture; making it easier for people to dispose of rubbish; and hitting litter louts in the pocket.”Andrea Leadsom
But, comments from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in recent months have indicated that the Department does see DIY waste from households as a type of household waste – putting it at odds with some local authorities (see letsrecycle.com story).
The issue has been acknowledged within today’s litter strategy, which has been jointly compiled by DCLG, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Department for Transport (DfT), the government claims that charges for waste disposal at HWRCs ‘can make disposing of waste more difficult’.
The government noted: “There is a long‑established precedent of free access for local residents to deposit household waste at household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) and this is now reflected in Regulations brought into force in 2015. This service enables residents to dispose of their household waste without charge and reduces the risk of fly‑tipping and backyard burning.
“Government’s view is clear: DIY waste is classed as household waste if it results from work a householder would normally carry out. A number of local authorities have introduced additional charges for the deposit of waste which local authorities categorise as ‘waste other than household waste’.
“However, as Government made clear following the consultation on preventing ‘backdoor’ charging at HWRCs, this can inconvenience residents and make disposing of their waste more difficult.”
As a result, the government has pledged to work with WRAP to review current guidance to ‘ensure this reflects changes in the law and to make clear what can and cannot be charged for at HWRCs – including in respect of DIY waste’.
Revised guidance, which it is claimed will also explore ways of managing HWRC services to facilitate access for local householders and small businesses ‘at proportionate cost’ will be published by the end of the 2017.
Work will also take place to explore ‘cost-sharing’ arrangements between waste collection and disposal authorities – to promote better management of waste services.
Deposit return scheme
On bottle deposit schemes, the government has pledged to establish a working group to look at different voluntary or regulatory options to improve recycling and reuse of packaging.
Deposit systems see customers pay a small cash deposit when they buy a drink in a can or bottle, and get the money back when they return the item to a collection point.
Ministers will ask the group to consider the advantages and disadvantages of different types of deposit and reward and return schemes for drinks containers, and to provide advice by the end of 2017, the strategy notes.
Elsewhere within the strategy, government has also promised new guidance for councils to update the nation’s ‘binfrastructure’, through what it describes as “creative new designs and better distribution of public litter bins, making it easier for people to discard rubbish”.
A review of fixed penalties for littering, increasing the current limit of between £50-£80 for an offence to up to £150 – while vehicle owners could receive penalty notices when it can be proved litter was thrown from their car – even if it was discarded by somebody else.
Commenting on the publication of the strategy, Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom said: “Litter is something that affects us all – blighting our countryside, harming our wildlife, polluting our seas, spoiling our towns, and giving visitors a poor impression of our country.
“Our litter strategy will tackle this antisocial behaviour by building an anti-litter culture; making it easier for people to dispose of rubbish; and hitting litter louts in the pocket.”