Black bag tax 'sends out wrong message'

PUBLISHED: 08:12 14 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:00 22 October 2010

Plans to force householders to pay a "black bag tax" for throwing out more rubbish was yesterday given a cool reception by councils in Norfolk.

Plans to force householders to pay a "black bag tax" for throwing out more rubbish was yesterday given a cool reception by councils in Norfolk.

The idea has been suggested as part of a shake-up in local government funding, to increase the amount we recycle and reduce the amount going to landfill.

The proposals come from Sir Michael Lyons, who is conducting a review of local government finance. Some European countries already charge households between 25p and 50p a kilo for rubbish collection.

But although one trailblazing council in Norfolk already has the technology needed to make it possible, most are worried about the cost, practicality, and negative consequences like fly-tipping. Nearly all are trying other ways to encourage people to recycle.

Andy Jarvis, head of environmental services at Broadland District Council, said the scheme would create a divide between rich and poor.

He said: "What would the underlying message be? You can throw away as much as you like so long as you pay for it."

The council already has problems with some residents who argue "quite forcefully" that they should get a larger or extra bin if they pay for it.

"The real issue is that we generally live in a nation of plenty with generally high disposable incomes and we are quite prepared to pay for being wasteful. How long can the environment cope with this?"

Mr Jarvis said the cost of the scheme was a "major concern", with a price-tag of around £500,000 for putting weighing equipment on lorries and putting microchips in bins. And if residents did not like the scheme there would be more fly-tipping and people using each other's bins.

South Norfolk Council already has the technology to make charging by weight possible, but has no plans to do so.

Phil Waltham, cabinet member for the environment, said: "We are one of the first local councils in the country to introduce microchipped bins, which means that our waste collection vehicles can weigh them as they are loaded, and we can identify bins by address.

"We introduced chips on bins with the primary intention of building a more detailed picture of refuse and recycling patterns among our residents in South Norfolk. We have no intention of relating any charges to that process."

Instead the council is offering residents the chance to win a flat-screen television if they put out a textbook recycling bin. Those who qualify will get a gold card which they can enter into a prize draw to win the television in time for the World Cup final. South Norfolk was also one of the first councils in the country to put in recycling bins across the whole district.

At Norwich City Council, Brian Morrey, executive member for environment and sustainability, said: "I am not particularly in favour of it myself. I think people respond better to incentives than to being penalised. You can imagine what would happen, people would be putting rubbish in other people's bins. In theory it is a good idea but I don't think it is practical at the moment."

The council is planning to change the way it collects recycling, because the boxes it gives householders are not big enough. A working party is due to start looking at the issue next month.

Jessica Whitty, community waste officer at Breckland Council, said: "We can see no real need to introduce charges for rubbish collections in our district in the foreseeable future as the message already seems to be getting through to the vast majority of our residents."

Figures on fly-tipping published last week show that it is on the increase in Norfolk, with black bags of rubbish the biggest problem.

Opinion - Page 18

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