Length of waste charging pilots clarified

Trial waste charging schemes, which are due to be run by five English councils from 2009, will not have to last three years as previously thought, the Environment Department (DEFRA) and Communities Department (DCLG) have announced.

Under the Climate Change Bill - currently making its way through Parliament (see pp 59-61 ) - five waste collection authorities will be able to introduce variable charging schemes to boost recycling (ENDS Report 390, p 39 ).

It was thought these pilots would have to run from 2009 until 2012, after which the Secretary of State would decide whether to allow schemes nationwide. Such a timescale would prevent councils from using variable charging to meet EU targets to divert biodegradable municipal waste from landfill in 2010 and 2013. They would only be able to use it to meet a later target in 2020.

However, in May, DEFRA and DCLG said it was up to local authorities to come forward with proposals on how they wish to operate a pilot, including how long it would run. Once the results had been evaluated a decision on roll-out would be made.

The Departments made the announcement in response to a report by the House of Commons’ Communities and Local Government Committee published in February.1 The Committee’s report criticised the pilots as unnecessary because variable charging is already widely used across Europe, and insufficient, as few types of scheme could be trialled (ENDS Report 398, pp 58-59 ). DEFRA and DCLG do not respond to these criticisms in any depth. European systems "may not be directly applicable in an English context," their response says.

"Five pilots represent an appropriate and manageable basis for us to explore the issues of general significance that will emerge," it adds.