Draft guidance issued on trials of recycling incentives

Government has rushed through a consultation on draft guidance to underpin its planned pilot schemes to test financial incentives to encourage recycling. The consultation closes on 25 July.

Powers to enable the pilots to go ahead are being debated as part of the Climate Change Bill. The legislation would allow up to five councils to charge or reward people according to the amount of unrecycled waste a household produces. The schemes must be revenue neutral, with money raised through charging offsetting payments as rewards. The first pilots could start from April 2009.

Six guidance documents were published by the Environment Department (DEFRA) at the end of June. DEFRA hopes it will help local authorities in developing pilot proposals, the deadline for which will be eight weeks after Royal Assent for the Bill.

Any council hoping to set up a scheme must have a "good recycling service" in place. This is defined through a list of essential and desirable criteria. Essential criteria include a recycling and composting rate in excess of 20%, free collection of dry recyclables and kerbside collection of at least two waste streams. Applications are more likely to be successful if recycling rates are over 40%, with 25% of dry recyclables being recycled. Those with food waste collection schemes and plastic collections are also likely to be favoured.

Other pieces of guidance cover:

  • Application and designation: outlining how the government will assess proposals, how the application process will work and the process for designating the pilots.
  • Technical issues: discussing the four main models local authorities could opt for: using special sacks or tags; basing charges or rebates on different bin sizes; basing charges on the frequency of collections or the weight of residual waste.
  • Finance: discussing the two financial models authorities can consider: rebate only or charge and rebate based. The guidance says that while there will be no minimum or maximum level for how much a local authority can charge for those producing the most residual waste, government has reserved a power to cap the amount a single household is charged in one year. Accounts relating to the scheme is to be publicly available.
  • Coverage and disadvantage groups: focusing on four key issues: what type of area is best for an incentive scheme; which properties should be within the scheme; how should different states of occupancy be dealt with and which groups of people should be within the scheme, in particular how to take account of disadvantaged groups.
  • Fly-tipping prevention: outlining the requirement for local authorities implementing a scheme to have in place a strategy to deal with fly-tipping, detailing the mechanisms local authorities could use to prevent, deal with and monitor incidents.
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