Azara Blog: Tories think that people should be rewarded for recycling waste

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Date published: 2009/11/25

The BBC says:

People who recycle household waste would get up to £130 a year in shopping vouchers under the Tories, shadow chancellor George Osborne has said.

He said a Conservative government would reward people who recycled, not "punish them" with "bin taxes".
Since March Conservative-controlled Windsor and Maidenhead Council has been working with a US company which specialises in "pay to recycle" schemes in America - funded by savings in landfill tax.

The Tories say it has encouraged households to boost their recycling by 30% and the average home is on course to receive £130 a year in vouchers.

Another bad Tory policy proposal, and they are not even in government yet, which does not bode well for when they are in government.

In theory (if not in practise) ordinary household waste should be charged at a rate X and recyclable household waste at a rate Y. X and Y should reflect the actual (direct and indirect) cost of dealing with the waste. It's quite possible that Y < X, although no government official ever seems to state this, and it seems the citizens of the UK are just supposed to assume this to be true. But whatever the relationshop of X and Y is, it is almost certainly the case that Y > 0. Yet the Tories are proposing to pretend that Y < 0, so rewarding people who recycle more.

There are several problems with this. So households that produce less waste (both X and Y) are (relatively) penalised compared with households that produce huge amounts of waste (both X and Y). This is completely the wrong message to send. Waste is waste, and producing less of it in the first place is the real way forward. Rewarding people for producing more of it, even if it is allegedly "holy" (because recyclable) is just plain daft.

For example, according to Mr Osborne, people who compost their own organic material are now going to be deemed to be worse citizens than people who hand it all over to the State to deal with. The latter will be showered with vouchers and the former will get nothing.

And because the rates will almost certainly be measured relative to weight (rather than, say, volume) it means that people who drink wine will be deemed to be better citizens than people who drink beer (wine bottles weighing a lot more than beer cans). And people who buy loads of newspapers will be deemed to be better citizens than people who buy none.

All in all this is a crackpot policy. And this is not even to mention the irony of handing over vouchers which will encourage yet more consumption of goods, i.e. produce more waste.

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