Newspaper reports suggesting that the European Union is to impose ‘pay-as-you-throw’ charges on household waste collections have been dismissed by a European body representing local authorities.
The European Committee of the Regions has poured cold water on reports in the Daily Mail, Telegraph and Express newspapers published this weekend (14 February) suggesting that ‘pay-as you-throw plans’ are being drawn up by the EU, which include “a new tax on waste collection”.
But the controversial ‘Pay-as-you-throw’ (PAYT) concept does have the backing of some senior figures within the UK’s waste and recycling sector as a potential way to boost recycling rates.
Only last week, Professor Margaret Bates, currently vice president of the Chartered Institution of Wastes (CIWM) Management, threw her support behind pay-as-you-throw. In MRW magazine she wrote: “Rather than try to bring about piecemeal change in behaviour through a charge here and a tax there, let’s just apply PAYT.”
It is not known yet whether CIWM will adopt PAYT as official policy. However, Professor Bates, who is sustainable wastes management professor at Northampton University, told letsrecycle.com that it is an issue she would ‘continue to highlight’ as a means of boosting recycling.
Another senior figure in the recycling sector, Ray Georgeson, who is director of the Resource Association, speaking recently in a personal capacity, noted that PAYT had seen success in boosting recycling in Italy (see letsrecycle.com story). Mr Georgeson called for councils to have powers to introduce PAYT.
Yesterday (Sunday) the Daily Mail quoted a document published by the European Committee of the Regions – which is made up of elected members from local authorities across the EU’s 28 member states but does not have powers to propose new policy – as containing “crippling new plans” for recycling collection charges.
However, this morning a spokesman for the Committee of the Regions told letsrecycle.com that the policy suggestions being referred to are contained within a document outlining case studies of local authority initiatives aimed at meeting the Europe 2020 growth strategy and should not be considered EU policy.
“Charging for commercial and domestic waste collection and disposal has the advantage of ensuring the sustainability of the service and sending out a clear economic signal to polluters.”Handbook for Local and Regional Authorities: Delivering on the Europe 2020 Strategy
EU Committee of the Regions
The document titled ‘Handbook for Local and Regional Authorities: Delivering on the Europe 2020 Strategy’ was in fact published in 2012.
The European Commission’s head of media in London, Mark English, has also renounced the reports as ‘Desperate nonsense’ on Twitter.
In its explanation of the report, the CoR outlines that it is “not intended as a guide on how to implement the Europe 2020 Strategy, but to inform and support local and regional authorities in their implementation of the Strategy”.
“It gives a non-exhaustive picture of existing and accessible information, good practices, sources of financing and other policy instruments related to the Europe 2020 Strategy (as of Spring 2012),” the CoR adds.
The handbook does contain reference to pay-as-you-throw schemes as a potential measure to encourage recycling, noting: “charging for commercial and domestic waste collection and disposal has the advantage of ensuring the sustainability of the service and sending out a clear economic signal to polluters.”
The Mail’s use of the policy proposal as an example of ‘red tape proposals’ from Brussels is likely to bring into question whether such a measure would be supported by the UK public. The Mail report describes PAYT as a ‘new tax on waste collection’ and a ‘tax on recycling’, while similarly the Telegraph describes it as a ‘bin tax’.
Responding, Professor Bates has defended the policy proposal, saying: “We are used to being told we have the right to throw away what we want, when we want and it should be collected by the council.
“Water meters were brought in, for example, with the idea that if you are responsible you can save money on your bills. It is either that or pay the same for incredibly wasteful behaviour.”