This is all getting increasingly bizzare. This thrashing about trying to find a way to correlate the amount paid for rubbish collection with the amount of rubbish collected.

Millions of families face fines of £50 for failing to recycle their rubbish under a new pay-as-you-throw bin charge scheme, a minister has disclosed. Under the plans, households could be forced to buy specially coloured, tagged or even bar-coded bin liners just to get local councils to take away their rubbish. There are also proposals to force households to buy lockable bins to stop people illegally dumping their litter in a neighbour\’s bin.

The aim of it all is to reduce the amount of rubbish that is landfilled rather than recycled.

But what no one seems to be looking at is whether that original goal is actually valid or not? We know where it comes from, EU regulation. We must reduce the amount landfilled or pay extremely large fines. But why?

There is no shortage of landfill space, there is only a shortage of what the EU will allow us to licence as landfill space. Now that we collect the methane from landfills, there\’s no particularly strong argument that landfill is more polluting than reccyling, indeed for some items we know that recycling is more polluting.

We also know that recycling is vastly more expensive than landfill: both in the processes themselves but also in the time that has to be spent sorting rubbish to be recycled.

So why on earth are we in fact doing all of this? A more complex. less efficient, more expensive system.

Who was the bright bugger who decided to impose this on us?

11 thoughts on “Bin Taxes Again”

  1. Nigel missed a right old trick on QT last night, when he tried to challenge DD on the EU, and DD said it had nothing to do with the EU; he was campaigning inter alia against councils snooping on people’s bins …

    Anyway, this gives me a golden opportunity to link to the MW waste manifesto, the upshot being it is stupid charging people for waste collection – the cost of waste collection should be added to the cost of new goods as they are sold (in place of VAT).

  2. Kit, on the whole, hypothecating taxes is just a gimmick (see National insurance) but with stuff like fuel duties = road maintenance; ‘rubbish duty’ = covers collection costs, where’s the problem?

    Tim adds: the latter is a fee for a service, not a tax.

  3. Tim, you’re right to assert that there is no theoretical reason for a shortage of landfill space. In fact, the decreasing amount of void is due to private sector operators not wishing to invest in new space (given EU targets for reducing landfill), rather than the EU not allowing us to licence new space.

    Again you make the point that we collect methane from landfill. In fact it is estimated that we only capture around 85% of methane emissions. We would have to capture 95%+ for landfill to be a comparable option to alternative treatment + disposal methods from a climate change perspective.

    According to the European Environment Agency the waste sector in the EU-15 reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 32% 1990-2003. This was primarily due to landfill diversion. That is why we are being asked to do it. It may be a blunt policy response, but that is a perfectly reasonable base rationale.

    Tim adds: Jacob, I’ve read the WRAP report too. I’ve no doubt that some recycling is economically efficient. Heck, I’ve done enough of it myself, buying up scrap metal for it to be reprocessed. I’m also fully aware that there are recycling processes which don’t make sense in purely market terms, but which do when we add in the costs of the externalities.

    However, there’s something of a shell game going on here. People are (like you, quoting 1990-2003 figures) looking at the benefits of some recycling and then insisting that more recycling will bring further such benefits.

    This ain’t necessarily so. Sure, if recycling some aluminium cans brings benefits then recycling more of them will bring more. But it doesn’t follow that if recycling Al cans brings benefits, that composting food waste does. Or nappies, or glass bottles, whatever.

    I’m not at all saying that recycling is a bad idea. Only that recycling some things is a good one, recycling others is a bad one. And unfortunately, we’re in the middle of a mania that insists that recycling everything is a good idea. It isn’t.

  4. Barcoded bin bags – check.
    Lockable bins – check.
    Huge increase in fly-tipping and waste just being dumped on the pavement in the middle of the night – check.

  5. BlacquesJacquesShellacques

    I have a solution. Let’s use a widely distributed sampling system to measure the statistical totals of what people really wish to do with their land and their garbage. We’ll let everyone acquire ‘garbage valuation and measurement tokens’. We’ll let landowners have ‘land valuation and measurement tokens’. We’ll let recyclers have ‘Recycling measurement tokens’. Reflecting a personal bias I’ll call the units of these latter tokens ‘BullShits’.

    To acquire tokens the various participants will have to work, scheme, cheat, invest, inherit or similar.

    Then the garbage producers, recyclers and landowners can exchange these tokens as they wish. Eventually we’ll find out what people really want by watching who has the most tokens.

    How many BullShits will be equal to one land token? Who knows.

    Is this not an interesting and clever idea?

    For shorthand we’ll call the tokens all ‘money’ and the process the ‘market’.

    Voila, a perfect measure of what people really want.

  6. I’m not one to wring my hands over “food miles”, but it’s odd how viral mentalists fail to compare recycling miles vs landfill miles. Ie wouldn’t it produce less CO2 for a few big lorrys to collect & bury our waste locally, than a fleet of little lorries collecting, sorting, and shipping off to numerous recycling profiteers.

  7. We are soon to see the largest increase in fly tipping during anyone’s lifetime. And is there a more democratic way than that of destroying this law? No.

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