Warnings over restrictive waste strategy must he heeded

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee has warned that a balance must be struck between local authorities and councils on waste strategy.

MPs say that the strategy risks placing a needless burden on local authorities by enforcing a prescriptive national approach to recycling and waste management. Waste collection is one of the most tangible services that local communities receive from their councils and it is they who will be accountable at the ballot box.

The government is seeking to require local authorities to introduce between one and three recycling bins, on top of residual waste, food waste and garden waste bins. As such, every household would be required to have between four and six bins.

The committee has now expressed doubts that councils want to ask their residents to store six separate bins outside or inside their homes, particularly in urban areas where space is likely to be more limited, saying that even four receptacles—the minimum the government is proposing—will be challenging in many circumstances.

Therefore, MPs are proposing that the ambitious targets for recycling must allow local authorities greater flexibility in how they are achieved and that local authorities should retain as much flexibility as possible to determine the most effective waste collection strategies for their communities.

Furthermore, council representatives should be allowed to scrutinise the data that informed the government’s proposals and assess if additional funding is likely to be needed. The government will also need to work with the industry to ensure that the right infrastructure is in the right places, and set-up at a reasonable cost. The government should also commit to covering any costs for infrastructure improvement so that it does not get passed on to local authorities, producers or consumers.

Clive Betts, chair of the committee, said: “The government has recognised the need for a comprehensive Waste Strategy with ambitious targets for improving recycling rates and reducing our impact on the environment. However, we believe that the government has set out the wrong approach for achieving these objectives. The government should not seek to dictate that which is best determined by local decision makers.

“In determining how often waste should be collected, the number of recycling bins or what services should be charged for, the government appears to have forgotten that what works in rural areas may not be suitable for cities. Local authorities understand what the challenges are in their areas and should be given the freedom to tailor their approach to meet them.

“Equally, the government must ensure that the funding is there that will allow local authorities to rise to the challenge. It will require significant investment to improve recycling infrastructure, and ongoing waste management costs arising from the government’s proposals will be higher. The government has indicated it will provide more funding, but they must demonstrate that this will be adequate in the long-term. Local authorities are already struggling, they cannot be expected to shoulder further burden without extra resourcing.”

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