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December 2007

Incentive framework for recycling pilot schemes published

London— The framework that will allow a small number of local authorities in England to pilot incentives for people to reduce, reuse and recycle waste has been set out by Waste and Recycling Minister Joan Ruddock.

Under the powers, included in the Climate Change Bill, a maximum of five local authorities will be granted permission to pilot the schemes.

The councils will be able to come forward with schemes to fit local circumstances but they must be approved by the Environment Secretary and follow clear guidelines set out in legislation - including having checks and balances in place for residents. Local authorities will have to pay back to residents overall any money they collect from them as part of the pilots. Those throwing away the least would receive a rebate and those throwing away the most could pay more.

The schemes will then be reviewed to ascertain their success before a decision is made on whether they can be introduced more widely.

Details of the pilots were set out by Ruddock in a written Parliamentary statement. The relevant clauses are included in the Climate Change Bill.

Ruddock said, “The case for reducing the amount of waste we all produce is clear - it is damaging the environment and contributing to climate change. Furthermore, it makes no financial sense to keep dumping it into holes in the ground.

“We need to work out the best way to achieve this. Local authorities have asked for incentive schemes as one of their options. Indeed, responses to the Government’s consultation showed strong support for these powers from within a wide range of local authorities across the whole political spectrum.

“But we realise that, while such schemes are common overseas, this is new ground for this country and that is why we want to pilot them first, to ensure the right checks and balances are in place for residents who participate.

The announcement followed a 12 week consultation on the incentive programs and confirmation in the recent Climate Change Bill Command Paper that the Government proposes.

Defra has committed up to £1.5 million per year over three years to help support the pilots. Ruddock confirmed that under the pilots, rebates could be deducted from council tax payments.

The checks and balances that will back up the schemes include:

  • A requirement that local authorities provide curbside recycling services so that residents have the opportunity to recycle.
  • A requirement that local authorities take account of any potentially disadvantaged groups in the schemes.
  • A requirement to have a fly-tipping prevention strategy in place. While evidence from overseas does not point to an automatic increase in fly-tipping, prevention strategies are a sensible precaution.

Experience from other countries does show that similar incentive schemes boost recycling and reduce waste overall.

The UK is currently the only member of the EU15 to have a ban on schemes which give households financial incentives to reduce and recycle their waste.