Pay as you throw – it’s already here and appears to be working!

Blaby District Council introduced the UK’s first variable charging scheme for household waste in 2000.  The scheme was designed to restrict householders to 140 litres of non recyclable waste per week, and gave householders the option to purchase additional capacity and waste services as and when required.


The intention was that by restricting the capacity of the residual waste bin, residents would realise how much waste they produce and therefore encourage householders to make full use of the opportunities available to reduce and recycle their waste. The philosophy behind the scheme was communicated to residents by distributing a DVD with a special edition council newspaper to all 37,500 households in the District.  In addition to this a number of roadshows and promotional events were held to reinforce the message.

Blaby clearly believe that the scheme has been successful, as the amount of waste to landfill reduced by 3% within its first year of operation and the overall recycling rate has increased from 29.3% in 2004/05 to 37% in 2005/06.

This methodology is pretty much an exact fit with the ‘bin size scheme’ described in the draft ‘Guidance to Councils’ issued by DEFRA.  What is most interesting is that Blaby have managed to implement a scheme some 8 years ahead of the Climate Change Bill which DEFRA have heralded as being a necessary piece of legislation to enable waste incentive schemes to be piloted.

Couple fund honeymoon with recycled litter

A couple from Hampshire have hit the news by collecting enough AirMiles from recycling litter they picked up from the streets at the local Tesco store. It’s one of those ‘and finally’ stories that run at the end of the news, but it does raise a few interesting questions (not all of them entirely serious)…

  • how does the cost of the flights compare to the costs the Council would have incurred collecting the litter? Does this point the way to cost savings where Councils close their street cleaning departments and aware holidays and consumer white goods to people who bring in litter?
  • are Tesco aware of the irony of rewarding the green activities of people with Clubcard points which are subsequently converted to AirMiles, these in turn being converted into huge amounts of carbon dioxide?
  • did Ann Till collect all the litter herself, or did she have a mob of small cartoon characters driving around in a car to help her?

However, this does point the way to capturing the public’s imagination and boosting recycling. Could such incentives to recycle point the way to a positive ‘pay by weight’ scenario? Certainly if glass and other dry recyclables were taken to supermarkets and other ‘community locations’ then the collection becomes much more financially and environmentally efficient than sending a vehicle to every house every fortnight.