LARAC has called for research into how a ‘discretionary direct charging system’ – which sees householders paying a fee for disposal of waste – could be implemented in the UK.
The recommendation comes in a report published by LARAC – the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee – today (11 April), which looks at ways to direct more funding towards councils for waste services and removing charges from council tax bills.
LARAC says a “fundamental shift” in funding is needed to see a sustained increase in recycling of household waste.
Direct charging schemes make householders responsible for the quantity of waste discarded and create an incentive to increase recycling and reuse, the report notes.
In the past, direct charging schemes – also known as pay as you throw (PAYT) – have been a controversial topic, with some experts in the UK waste and recycling sector concerned that it could lead to uncertain revenues for councils and increases in illegal dumping of waste.
The possible implementation of PAYT in the UK has been a subject of discussion, with fears of public opposition (see letsrecycle.com story).
However, the report states: “If charges were decoupled from the council tax, residents would have a greater appreciation of the true cost of waste management and have the opportunity to make a saving.”
And, LARAC explains that direct charging can be a “valuable method” of raising funds to support recycling collections.
“We need to decouple the provision of waste services from council tax and move it to something that the supply chain and users are responsible for.”Carole Taylor
Explaining the aims of the report, Carole Taylor, chair of LARAC, said: “The achievement of local authorities in the past ten years to raise recycling rates to current levels have come at great expense to them. Millions of pounds of public money are used each year to build and run these services but after years of austerity the current funding model is no longer fit for purpose.
“We need to decouple the provision of waste services from council tax and move it to something that the supply chain and users are responsible for. This will mean some difficult conversations across industry and consideration of thorny policy areas, but it is time to grasp those particular nettles.”
LARAC has also called for a major reform of producer responsibility system to reduce the burden on local authority collections for materials which are difficult to recycle.
According to the report, producers only fund around 10% towards the collection of the material they produce and local authorities “face a disproportionate share of the cost burden for collecting this packaging”.
“The current PRN framework does not encourage investment as there is no obligation on reprocessors and exporters receiving PRN revenue to invest sufficiently in the whole UK infrastructure,” LARAC says. “Furthermore, the uncertainty in income resulting from fluctuating PRN prices in not conductive to sustained investment.”
LARAC said it hopes that the paper will stimulate debate and bring about key policy developments and change in council waste funding across the UK. And, Lee Marshall, chief executive of LARAC, said he hoped the paper will trigger discussions in the lead up to the publication of DEFRA’s Waste Strategy.
Other measures explored in the report include deposit return schemes (DRS), which if introduced, LARAC says, should prioritise materials which are not universally collected at the kerbside and are currently hard to recycle.
The Government confirmed last month that it will introduce some form DRS for single use drinks containers, which could cover plastic and glass bottles, as well as cans (see letsrecycle.com story).
The report calls for a full impact analysis to be undertaken for any proposed DRS scheme to assess impacts on local authority operations.
Pay as you Throw
One of the most acclaimed examples of Pay as you Throw is in Contarina, Italy, which has featured in UK events and is covered by European Union work on the Circular Economy.