Councils reject trials of ‘pay as you throw’

No councils have come forward to test financial incentive schemes to encourage household recycling, the Environment Department (DEFRA) confirmed today. The news is a blow to the government which has been urging local authorities to participate in the pilots

Voluntary powers to enable trials of the approach were included in the Climate Change Act, which allows up to five councils to charge or reward households according to the amount of unrecycled waste they produce. Schemes must be revenue-neutral although authorities were free to design the details of a scheme.

The Local Government Association, which lobbied hard for councils to have the power to bring in such schemes, said it was not surprised. In a statement it said councils were “understandably reluctant to come forward” given that “DEFRA has not published its rules for how they must operate.”

However DEFRA did issue five guidance documents last year following a consultation in June (ENDS Report 402, p 44). They cover technical issues, financing models, fly-tipping prevention and options on how to deal with coverage and disadvantaged groups.

The lack of interest by councils, however, had been predicted. In July last year the Communities and Local Government select committee warned in its report on refuse collection that councils were unlikely to want to set up a complex charging scheme that earns "no money and risks widespread public disapproval".

It added that residents paying more are likely to be "more aggrieved than the gainers are pleased" as it will be seen as an extra charge for a service already paid through council tax.

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