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Are refuse collection charges and penalties the answer to better recycling?

September 6, 2006 at 9:14 am

Councils nationwide are under pressure to meet tough recycling targets – yet just 18% of UK waste is recycled, missing the government’s goal to stop a third of our rubbish going to landfill by 2015. In order to meet their quota, councils are cracking down on householders to comply with recycling measures. Penalty systems to punish those who fail to meet recycling measures have been introduced. South Norfolk Council is just one example – they have introduced a ‘red-card’ system whereby residents are reprimanded for mis-sorting their rubbish.

However, householders are reacting by complaining that schemes are too complicated and illogical. For example, in Norfolk four different councils operate four different schemes for residents around Norwich. Each system has a slightly different requirement: some recycle plastic, others don’t; some will refuse to take glass, others will. In addition the colours of the bins vary – whereas Broadland District Council supplies a grey bin for recycling, Great Yarmouth Borough Council provides a green bin.

Councils are at a loss as how to enforce recycling if rules are ignored. In a recent Daily Mail article (August 21) it was reported that outraged householders tipped their refuse in the street in protest at their local recycling system and in the only case to go to court so far, Donna Challice, a householder in Exeter, was acquitted in July for ‘contaminating’ her bin. Yet, according to The Environment Agency, nine out of ten people would recycle more if it were made easier.

It has been suggested that charging residents for refuse collection is the answer. In early August, Environment Minister Ben Bradshaw suggested the UK should consider a ‘polluter pays’ policy. And last week (August 27), a new report from a UK think tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), recommended the trialling of ‘microchips’ in bins – to monitor the weight of rubbish.

Waste charge has been successfully employed elsewhere. In January 2005, Dublin City Council introduced a new pay by use and volume system for household waste collection services. Householders pay up to 340 Euros a year to have their wheelie bin taken out every week. In a scheme similar to the Irish plastic bag tax, householders are given financial incentive to aid recycling.

However, the implementation of such a system could prove expensive and will take time to be passed by government. It is certainly no short-term solution. But Britain has to match up to the standards set in the EU – householders in Germany, Holland and Austria recycle at least half their waste. If the general public continue to refuse to comply with the schemes of local councils, penalties might be the only solution.

What do you think? Is it time to give the red-card to lazy recyclers?

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8 responses to “Are refuse collection charges and penalties the answer to better recycling?”

  1. Catherine Petts says:

    Most recycling systems are far too complicated with a list of different items that need to be put out in different containers, on different days of different weeks. I live in the Vale of White Horse. we have one green recycling bix into which we put everything recyclable every week. our rubbish collection consists of one lorry that picks up the sacks of household waste and another that collects the recyclables. The operatives of the recycling lorry sort the recyclables into differnt containers. I am sure that the simplicity of this scheme means higher recycling rates and it is far less confusing for householders.

  2. Catherine Petts says:

    Most recycling systems are far too complicated with a list of different items that need to be put out in different containers, on different days of different weeks. I live in the Vale of White Horse. we have one green recycling bix into which we put everything recyclable every week. our rubbish collection consists of one lorry that picks up the sacks of household waste and another that collects the recyclables. The operatives of the recycling lorry sort the recyclables into differnt containers. I am sure that the simplicity of this scheme means higher recycling rates and it is far less confusing for householders.

  3. Darren Evans says:

    Lets not complicate things…
    I am a huge believer in recycling and everything possible from my household is recycled.
    I am sorry Scott, your idea at first seams like a solution to everyones problems, but can you imagine the confussion normal householders will have of understanding what part of the bin to put things in?
    Afterall, we are talking about a huge part of the population who are to selfish to take a moment to think before they chuck things away.
    Surely local concils should get together a agree on a basic plan for the colour of these boxes and what can and cannot be collected. Come on Councils, stop changing your minds about what you want collected and when, and in what colour box, bag or bin – it’s not rocket sceience and I am sure many teenagers could come up with a better system than currently sits in place.
    Further ahead, if charging each individual household for its waste gets put in place (lets face it, its coming!) then surely it is only down to our own short sightedness?

  4. Mike Chapple says:

    If we were to introduce a healthy dose of capitalism into recycling i’m sure a lot more could be done, for example -is there a profit in it, and if there was how could we redistribute such a profit back to the person throwing out the waste-ie in the form of lower council tax. The problem is that the green movement is of the left-all about taxes and artificial markets what we need here is a change in behaviour and the best way to do that is encourage some self interest in the problem.The poorest areas are always the most litter strewn-has no-one asked why this is?But if you were to offer say money back on used plastic bottles i,m sure none would be thrown away

  5. Philippa Bond says:

    Yes, but first I think that there should be proper follow up on the what is already provided. We have a green box scheme for recyclables and a food waste box with a sealing lid for all food waste including bones and which you must line with newspaper which are collected the day after the other collection. Last week’s waste audit (I don’t do this every week but thought it would be interesting) was three tins and two glass jars and a few papers in the green box; a half filled food waste box; a carrierbagful of flattened cardboard and an enormous carrierbagful of plastic. It is the plastic which is the problem. I have to take both plastic and cardboard by car to be recycled (when I make a trip in that direction of course). There has never been any Council follow up/questionnaire on how we are getting on with the schemes and offering us a forum where we can ask questions about what we can and can’t recycle. Even if this was just for a limited period I am sure that it would help the take-up on the scheme. I think it is brilliant and I would like to see the follow up and then I would like to see cardboard and certain plastics – bottles and anything else marked as 1, 2, 3 & 4 (or perhaps even just PET – just be more specific, clear and simple) type plastics with their proper names (rather than this ridiculous problem that we take this not that pots and packs etc).
    I try to always take my own bag when I go shopping and have several 50p Sainsbury’s/M&S/ Waitrose and Tesco supershoppers and Bags for Life in the car but have still managed to collected two carrierbagfuls of carrier bags. I maintain that the supermarkets are not doing enough to REDUCE the amount of packaging as I still keep coming across newly plastic covered vegetables. I think that all supermarkets should have alternatives to the ‘free’ carrier bags at the tills and that these should be advertised just as much as their banking facilities etc at the tills. Shoppers should be encouraged as they have been at Tesco’s to break the bag habit by reducing the number that they take come as much as possible. I think they will still have enough to re-use and recycle. There must be hundreds of drawers and cupboards stuffed with carrier bags! Make it your New Year’s Resolution for 2007 – to try and reduce the number you use and free up that drawer or cupboard!

  6. Eric Archer says:

    Where I live (West Wilts),we have alternate weekly collections. One for general household rubbish and the other for recyclable waste, (greenstuff cardboard, tree trimmings etc)
    The recyclable collection is in two parts a black box for paper, tins alum foil, textiles, leather goods. and a green wheelie bin for compostables.
    When this was first started I was I admit a sceptic, however now after a couple of years I believe that this is the right way to go. In a “senior moment “, I accidentally tipped a bag of general rubbish in my green bin. The response was a polite note explaining why the bin was not emptied onn that occasion
    We are still faced with awkward things which have to go direct to the recycling site such as soil, rubble, wood, chipboard, scrap metals and so forth and of course the ubiquitous batteries and old electrical appliances.
    The disposal of these latter items is not too much problem for me because I am fairly fit. However I see a time in the not too distant future when it will become a problem and then I can see no provision for those circumstances. The local council have a system for bulky items and I can have 5 collected for a fee. However as I recently found they are pickky and although I had 5 items they would collect only 2

  7. Peter Boyce-tomkins says:

    Surely the governments time would be better spent penalising manufacturers for using un-necessary amounts of packing than penalising householders who have to dispose of it.
    But of course the manufacturers would fight back whereas we humble householders are easy pickings for a tax obsessed government.

  8. Philippa Bond says:

    People will always use the excuse of something being ‘too difficult’ as being reason enough for not doing anything.
    It may be that the British public have to be criminalised in order to get them to do anything. Those who are still so short-sighted will end up paying that price – but why should the rest of us who can and do make an effort?
    You can’t just have one system for all. It depends on market forces.

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