Licence to produce more waste?

The news that the Coalition Government is to scrap the previous administration’s pay-as-you-throw policy and reward people for recycling has received much positive coverage in the last 24 hours. The emphasis is now on carrots rather than sticks, with ministers wishing to see the Windsor and Maidenhead example replicated around the country where householders are rewarded for recycling their waste. The rewards come in the form of vouchers that can be redeemed at local retailers.

All good stuff but doesn’t this encourage people to buy more stuff with their vouchers – often heavily packaged goods – thus generating more waste? What happens to reuse and reduce, which come before recycle in the waste hierarchy? How do single person households fare as they’ll be generating less to recycle in the first place. They may well be recycling all that they can but it will certainly be less than a household of four, so will they have less opportunity to win rewards?

Recycling rates have improved considerably over the last few years and for many it’s a way of life. These people will be looking for the next thing to do – reducing the amount of waste they produce – but will they be deterred from doing so now?

The Windsor and Maidenhead scheme relies on electronic tags to weigh the contents of the bin, linked to the householder’s personal account. Funny how we’re happy to accept this technology if we’re going to benefit from it, we’re anti it if we’re going to be penalised. Wasn’t the chips on bins policy trying to achieve the same result – more recycling, less waste going to landfill?

Encouraging more people to recycle is essential but it does need to be part of a more comprehensive plan. One that includes reuse and reduction and one that includes other parts of the waste stream, particularly from the commercial and industrial sector, which contributes 24% of total waste arisings, compared with household waste which accounts for 9%

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