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David Cracknell
Political Editor
Higher Waste Collection Bills Loom
With Green
'Stealth Tax'
Sunday Times
8 August 2004

Householders are to pay more for the collection of their rubbish under plans by ministers who admit that it will be seen as "another stealth tax", leaked cabinet papers have revealed. People will be charged for the amount of "unsorted waste" that they leave in their rubbish bins, encouraging them to pick out recyclable products such as tin cans, glass bottles and paper. In a bid to reduce political controversy, ministers will leave it up to local councils to decide whether to go ahead with the scheme.

The household incentive scheme will be included in a clean neighbourhoods bill in the Queen's speech in the autumn. The measure has been promoted by the Environment Agency but it is only now that ministers have taken it seriously after pressure from Brussels to reduce greenhouse gases. [1]

In the leaked documents Margaret Beckett, the environment secretary, says: "I accept that there will be potential political risks, but also the potential for significant long-term gains." Outlining the scheme at a cabinet committee meeting last month, she admitted that the move would be "perceived as another stealth tax". According to a Downing Street study, enough rubbish is produced every hour to fill the Albert Hall in London and 80% of it goes as landfill, although parts of the country are running out of potential sites. Beckett revealed the plans at a meeting of the cabinet's environment committee on July 15. She also outlined how to "grant powers to allow local authorities at their discretion to charge householders for the collection, processing and disposal of unsorted household waste". [2]

Critics will claim that the plan will lead to more illegal dumping of rubbish and will be difficult to administer. Experts, however, say that dustbins can be fitted with electronic tags that can be read by a machine attached to the dustcart. The machine can identify the bin, weigh it and add a charge to the owner's bill. [3]

In support of the move, local authorities will argue that householders are paying far too little for rubbish disposal. If people are made to pay more for such a service then they will consider recycling. Current charges, included in the council tax, average less than £1 a week per household. Under the new system, that part of the council tax earmarked specifically for rubbish collection would be abolished in favour of what councils say would be a fairer system. [4]

In her report to the committee, Beckett acknowledged the importance of a paper from the No 10 strategy unit in November 2002 called Waste Not, Want Not. The 156-page document backed the idea of household incentive schemes. Outlining the benefits, it said: "It rewards those households who reduce and recycle waste. It reduces costs (and) boosts recycling." The clean neighbourhoods bill will also include measures to expand on-the-spot fines of £80 for antisocial behaviour, including minor vandalism, dropping chewing gum, flyposting and graffiti.   

[1] There are now serious doubts over the entire "greenhouse gas" theory, not least because its assertion that there is a linear progression of global warming cannot satisfactorily account for there having been cycles of hotter and colder climate, including ice ages, in the past.... more info
[2] Landfill sites may be running out (some literally are), but that waste could be reprocessed into much safer and mostly re-useable form along with new waste; so why the obsession with a rather limited and clumsy recycling scheme when better exist? See below....
[3] Several cities already have advanced, clean-burn incinerators that could very efficiently generate electricity or heating if fully activated; but there is an even more advanced, no fuss, in-works separation, and almost total recycling system which both the government and so-called "greens" seem oddly determined to ignore.... more info
[4] Fairer in what way? It's as much a weasel argument as the ones that road pricing or raising fuel tax or beer tax are "fair". They are not fair. Those with a high income (and therefore a higher disposable or discretionary income) could well absorb such additional charges, unlike people with scarcely enough to get by on as it is. So who suffers disproportionately? Not the fatcat apparachiks and cozily salaried campaigners who will sanctimoniously inform you it's all for your own good, and that's for sure.

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