The Daily Mail today carries a story about one of their favourite subjects – bin taxes. It reports that the Government is trying for push these through again after failing to attract any interest in its ‘pilot schemes’. Not surprisingly, the report is entirely negative and presents ‘pay as you throw’ as another Gordon Brown stealth tax.
I have several questions after reading this article.
- what is this ‘huge public opposition’? The media regularly whip up a storm over this and tell us that we are totally opposed to ‘bin taxes’, but I don’t actually see any real feeling that rewarding recyclers with lower Council Tax is a bad thing. Although not reported, that would have been the outcome of the DEFRA pilot schemes.
- what is the alternative? Landfill is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions whilst simultaneously wasting energy rich resources such as glass. How would the Daily Mail suggest that we divert waste from landfill now that those who are will to recycle are mostly doing so?
- what other utility service do householders receive unmetered? Gas, water, electricity, window cleaning and everything else is paid for subject to the amount used. Why is waste so different and why do we cling so tightly to being able to produce and dump as much rubbish as we feel like? I’m not actually sure that the general public is that bothered about being asked to separate out resources from waste.
I believe we are missing the point. Householders want to have a dependable and efficient waste collection service. In recent times many of us have had our residual waste bin collected less frequently or reduced in size to force us to recycle more. I have no doubt that this has been done for the right reasons (to reduce landfill) it hasn’t been popular and many councils are now faced with a hostile public, despite the fact that most residents have a considerably larger total bin volume than ever before. In part this is due to natural resistance to change but also that many items still cannot be recycled (plastics in particular) and that availability of services differs greatly from one region to another.
Councils don’t necessarily have much control over any of this. However, they must continue to improve services, reduce costs and drive up recycling. It’s about time the lazy media stories were replaced with a serious explanation of what ‘pay as you throw’ really means – that it is a revenue-neutral means of forcing people to send less waste to contaminate our green and pleasant land. The happy side-effect of this is that councils will pay less for disposal and earn more for reclaimed materials, which can be passed back to you and me as savings in Council Tax.
It can’t be that hard to sell, surely?