LGA response to Defra call for evidence on booking systems at household waste and recycling centres, and technical consultation on preventing charges to householders for the disposal of “DIY” waste at household recycling centres

There is no hard evidence to support the argument that removing the flexibility for councils to charge will reduce the amount of fly-tipped waste.


About the Local Government Association

  • The Local Government Association (LGA) is the national voice of local government. We are a politically-led, cross party membership organisation, representing councils from England and Wales.
  • Our role is to support, promote and improve local government, and raise national awareness of the work of councils. Our ultimate ambition is to support councils to deliver local solutions to national problems.
  • This response is not confidential.

Key messages

  • The recycling charity WRAP compared levels of fly-tipping in councils that charge for some household waste and recycling centre (HWRC) waste streams and those that do not. Their comparison did not show higher rates of fly-tipping for councils that have introduced charges for DIY type waste. This finding is repeated in studies by individual councils. There is no hard evidence to support the argument that removing the flexibility for councils to charge will reduce the amount of fly-tipped waste.
  • The new burdens doctrine should apply as this is a change to legislation that will increase costs to councils. Where councils are no longer able to charge for DIY waste at HWRCs the cost will be passed to all householders, including households that do not have a car and those with no possibility of carrying out building works, for example people living in rented accommodation. We question the fairness of applying this policy now, at a time when households are facing rising living costs including council tax.
  • The operation of HWRCs is a local matter that is best determined by councils, who are accountable to residents for the way waste and recycling services operate. At national level we need Defra to provide strong leadership on waste prevention and the circular economy. For example, by bringing forward extended producer responsibility schemes for the most commonly dumped materials, such as mattresses and other bulky waste.

Response to consultation questions

Amending the legal definition of household waste

Question: Do you agree or disagree with these technical principles when the government amends the 2012 regulations?

Disagree. The consultation proposes that the definition of household waste will be amended to include two new categories: construction waste that residents can present to HWRCs for free, and a new category of industrial waste that councils can charge for. This would be burdensome for councils to administer. The new definition places the responsibility on councils to determine whether waste is “construction” or “industrial” and to explain this to residents. This is likely to be confusing for both HWRC operatives and residents. There is a real risk that poorly designed charging principles could be misunderstood or exploited, with local taxpayers picking up the bill.

Question: Given the government’s stated policy, do you agree or disagree with these tests on whether construction waste should be treated as DIY waste and classified as household waste, and should not be charged for when disposed of at a HWRC?

Disagree. The proposed tests would be difficult to apply in practice. For example, the tests would require councils to track the frequency of visits and measure the volume of waste presented.

Further thought needs to be given to how HWRC staff would establish that “waste does not arise from activities that generate an income for the person who carried them out” and how abuse of this test could be avoided. It is a significant saving to a business if they can dispose of construction waste for free. However, this is not a cost avoided, instead the disposal cost is passed on to local taxpayers.

We question whether the proposed limit on the volume of construction waste is helpful. Setting the limit at the “average car boot size of 300l” will be unfair to some car owners and HWRC operatives may find that they are challenged on this by members of the public.

Question: Do you have any other views on the technical circumstances in which construction waste should be considered DIY waste and classified as household waste?

The new burdens doctrine should apply as this is a change to legislation that will increase costs for some councils. The costs will likely be significant and need to be understood properly. Where councils are no longer able to charge for DIY waste the cost will be passed to all householders, including households that do not have a car and those with no interest in building works, for example people living in rented accommodation. We question the fairness of applying this policy now, at a time when households are facing rising household bills including council tax.

Booking systems at HWRCs

Question: Please outline the key reasons why you have a booking system in place/do not have a booking system in place

There is no one size fits all approach, and some HWRC sites are operating without a booking system. This decision is best left to councils as they know the sites and understand the needs of their local communities.

Where councils have consulted residents there has been a positive response to booking systems, for example in Kent. Swindon Council’s system is another example of good practice with good public support.

Appointment systems can help to avoid traffic congestion around HWRCs and makes it less likely that residents will face lengthy queues. Waste collections may operate from the same sites as the HWRC and reducing congestion can help household waste and recycling collections operate more smoothly.

The LGA has not seen any evidence that proves a link between appointment systems and increased fly-tipping.

The consultation paper states that there are no likely significant impacts of the proposals on those who may have protected characteristics under the Public Sector Equality Duty. This is a broad generalisation and Defra would benefit from closer engagement with councils and user groups to test this assumption.

Councils tell us that appointment systems can have a positive impact on people with protected characteristics, for example by enabling operatives more time to provide support to those who need it. Visiting an HWRC by appointment is a more predictable experience which is helpful for some, for example those with caring responsibilities. Appointment systems need to be accessible, and councils are learning about this as they gain experience, to ensure that people without access to online booking systems can make appointments by phone. It may be helpful for Defra to work with the LGA and local authority waste networks to share case studies.

Defra call for evidence

Contact

Hilary Tanner, Adviser

Email: hilary.tanner@local.gov.uk