Britain's bins contain millions of pounds of untapped riches, say council bosses

LGA media release 4 June 2013

The nation's rubbish is a gold mine which could earn local authorities and their residents an extra £1 billion by 2020 to help reduce the burden on local taxpayers.

This could be achieved through reforming the market to improve the quality of the recyclable material produced by the sector and by local authorities obtaining a better share of revenue from the 26 million tonnes of tin cans, old fridges and even disposable nappies we throw away each year.

Going beyond the current EU targets and increasing the amount of household recycling to 70 per cent could offer even greater rewards, helping to create an estimated 51,000 jobs and generate an extra £3 billion in additional revenue for the UK economy.

But council bosses are warning that unless government provides the necessary tools and investment to help them grow the booming waste sector, the country will miss out on the opportunity to unlock the true value of our waste.

The Local Government Association's local waste review, ‘Wealth from Waste', which has been published today, outlines a number of key recommendations for government on how to promote a thriving, growing, domestic market for recyclable materials as well as looking at how we increase recycling and reuse to feed growth of the sector.

Recommendations include the Treasury refunding landfill tax receipts through councils and the Green Investment Bank to fund the building of new recycling centres, a call for new industry guidelines to improve the quality of recycled material produced and sold by the UK waste sector and the introduction of reward schemes to thank residents for playing their part.

Councils and residents have played a central role in increasing the amount we now recycle to 43 per cent of household waste compared to 13 per cent a decade ago, putting the country well on track to meet its EU imposed target of 50 per cent by 2020.

Since 2008 however, successive Governments have primarily used punitive measures such as the landfill tax to encourage greater recycling levels. In the last five years, The Treasury has increased rates of landfill tax per tonne from £24 to a staggering £80, raking in around £3 billion from local taxpayers. None of this money has been reinvested to help reduce the amount of household waste being sent to landfill and the consequential burden to the taxpayer.

This means that despite having played a vital role by sorting through their recycling and helping councils with their kerbside collections, efforts which have seen the amount of residential waste being sent to landfill fall by more than half since 2000, residents are having to pay more than ever before to have their bins collected.

Cllr Clyde Loakes, Vice-Chair of the LGA's Environment and Housing Board, said:

"There is clearly wealth in waste. The UK's waste and recycling sector is currently worth around £11 billion and growing at twice the rate of the rest of the economy, but there is so much more we could do to make the most of this booming industry.

"Residents have played their part. By helping us recycle more and more every year they are helping councils save money on the cost of processing the bins, yet they are being punished, not rewarded, because of the crippling rate rises in landfill tax. 

"By freezing the landfill tax at its current rate and reinvesting the money through joint council and private sector waste projects, The Treasury could help us stimulate growth, create jobs and boost an important revenue stream for local authorities to limit the impact of budget cuts on local taxpayers and help us continue to deliver the services our residents rely on, from keeping libraries open to caring for the elderly.

"Having already had to cope with 33 per cent funding cuts and with further cuts expected in the upcoming Spending Round, councils know better than anyone how tight public finances are at the moment. But continuing to cream off increasing landfill tax receipts to balance the Government's books is not only unfair to taxpayers, it also misses a genuine opportunity to turn the UK's waste and recycling sector into a world leader."

Cllr Mike Jones, Chairman of the LGA's Environment and Housing Board, said: 

"This is an excellent piece of work and I think that the recommendations put forward in this report will set a new tone for the waste debate and enable councils and government to start really looking at the opportunities for the waste sector." 

LGA local waste review 'Wealth from waste' – (PDF, 36 pages, 2.45MB large file)

Author: LGA Media Office
Contact: LGA Media Office, Telephone: 0207 664 3333 


6 June 2013

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