Think-Tank Backs Pay-As-You-Throw

Friday 7 March

According to a new report from the Adam Smith Institute, The Waste of Nations by Gordon Hector, pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) waste charges are the best way to encourage recycling and to boost profitable waste businesses.

The report stresses that PAYT must not be used as a 'dustbin tax' and that its introduction must be accompanied by a corresponding fall in council tax. Evidence from Holland, Ireland and Germany suggests that PAYT should not increase household bills and that, indeed, it may offer an opportunity to reduce them.

According to the report:

  • The UK is lagging behind in recycling, sometimes dubbed the 'dustbin of Europe'.

  • Recycling is good for the environment because it reduces the need for unpopular landfill sites and incinerators and can prompt emissions savings of millions of tonnes a year. It is good economics too, because it allows us to get value from things we would otherwise bury in the ground.

  • Research from the US suggests a move to PAYT would reduce landfill by 16-17%, increase recycling by 50%, and lead to a source reduction in waste of around 16%.

  • PAYT would encourage consumers to demand less unnecessary packaging and more recyclables from producers and retailers. Such consumer-led environmentalism is far more effective than government regulation.

The report also calls for the full liberalization of the refuse collection sector, so that private companies would have to compete for customers. Such a move would keep prices down and increase customer satisfaction. It would also lead to innovation and encourage refuse collectors to recycle more waste.

As the ASI's policy director, Tom Clougherty, says:

"The government's proposals for variable waste charging have run into widespread opposition because they are half-baked and ill thought out. The ASI's plan is entirely different. Liberalizing refuse collection and introducing pay-as-you-throw charging would dramatically increase recycling and help the environment, but it would also be an opportunity to reduce taxes, save money, and increase the quality of a vital service."

The final section of the report argues that recycling should be put on a commercial footing. Recycling facilities and providers should be allowed to merge and consolidate, and the free movement and trade of recyclables should be established. This would allow economies of scale to be established, bringing down the cost of recycling and recycled goods, and ensuring a market for commercially viable businesses in the long run.


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