Azara Blog: Government wants to "reward" people who recycle a lot

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Date published: 2008/06/19

The BBC says:

Households could be rewarded or fined according to the amount of rubbish they recycle, under pilot schemes due to run in five parts of England next year.

Each council would be able to fix its own policy but environment minister Joan Ruddock said payments generally worked well in other parts of Europe.

The sums in question were likely to be in the range of £50, she suggested.

The Local Government Association said action was needed because Britain was now "the dustbin of Europe".

Under the trial, due to begin next April, households which recycled the most rubbish and left the least in their bin would receive a rebate.

Those in the worst-performing homes would be charged for the rubbish they left, and it would be the money from them which would cover the costs of rewards for active recyclers.

Local authorities are being invited to submit proposals for schemes, should they wish to be considered for the trial.

The government will not consider extending these so-called "pay-as-you-throw" measures across England until the evidence from the five pilots is assessed.

Its guidelines made clear the councils chosen for the pilots must have measures in place to discourage and penalise fly-tipping.

Ms Ruddock referred to a scheme in Sweden, where recycling had increased by 49% and waste levels had fallen by 19% within a year of residents being charged according to the weight of their unrecyclable rubbish.

There were similar results with different schemes in Italy and the Netherlands, she added.

It is trivially obvious that people will respond to incentives. And here that means that people will produce less unrecyclable waste but also that there will be increased fly-tipping. The government may require councils to "have measures in place to discourage and penalise fly-tipping" but that is meaningless. Whether the decrease in unrecyclable waste makes up for the increase in fly-tipping is a hard question.

It also seems that people who compost their own organic waste will be financially penalised relative to people who just hand it all over to the State to deal with, since the former will have "recycled" less than the latter (according to the official State definition). And beer drinkers will be financially penalised relative to wine drinkers, since tin cans weigh less than glass bottles. And people who don't buy newspapers will be financially penalised relative to people who buy loads of newspapers, because the latter will be considered to be gold star citizens if they can be bothered to put their newspapers in the recycling bin. Etc.

If you believe that it makes sense to charge for "pay-as-you-throw" then what should happen, of course, is that everyone is charged for both unrecyclable and for recyclable waste, but possibly at different rates, to reflect the cost of collecting and processing the waste, and also to reflect the cost of any environmental side effects. Unfortunately the EU elite have decided that recyclying is holy, so the more the merrier. It does not matter how much waste you produce, as long as you recycle a certain percentage of it (and hand it over to the State to do so). This is environmental madness.

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