No cheers from Britain\'s Greens for waste tax rise
LONDON - Recyclers and environmentalists gave a lukewarm reception this week to UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown\'s decision to raise the cost of dumping waste in his pre-budget speech to parliament.
Brown said the government would consult on a proposal to increase the landfill tax from 2005 by \"at least three pounds a tonne in future years,\" on the way to a medium-to long-term rate of 35 pounds a tonne from the current level of 13 pounds, to encourage other methods of waste disposal.
But environmentalists said the government was not cracking down enough on polluters to really boost the country\'s recycling performance, one of the poorest in the European Union.
\"It\'s half of what is needed but it\'s better than a kick in the teeth,\" said Mike Childs, senior waste campaigner at UK environmental lobby Friends of the Earth.
Brown also said that the government planned to reform the Landfill Tax Credit Scheme - which allows operators to allocate 20 percent of their landfill tax liability through a tax credit scheme to fund approved environmental projects - from April 1 next year to promote the development of sustainable waste management processes, and supporting local community environmental projects.
\"The government\'s intention is that increases will be introduced in a way that is revenue-neutral to business as a whole,\" Brown said in his speech.
Britain sends around 80 to 90 million tonnes of waste to the dumps and has extremely cheap landfill costs compared with greener countries such as Germany or the Netherlands.
Industry experts say this low cost is seen as one of the main factors hobbling the country in its aim to comply with the European Union\'s environmental agenda.
The Envionrmental Services Association, a trade body that represents the UK waste management community, said it welcomed the increase
\"Rather than raising taxes to raise revenue it\'s a tax to change behaviour,\" Mike Walker, director of policy at the ESA said.
\"We would welcome 35 pounds a tonne that would make other waste treatment options competitive, so we would get more of a balance in terms of weaste treatment options and meeting our international obligations,\" he said.
This week, Britain\'s Strategy Unit - an independent unit that provides long-term strategic reviews and policy analysis for the government - released a report on waste for the government, in which it stated municipal waste in England would double in volume by 2020 and would cost 3.2 billion pounds ($4.95 billion) to dispose of, or twice the amount spent today.
\"It points out that household waste is growing at three percent a year, which is faster than GDP growth and faster than in many other EU nations. We produce more waste per head than in many other EU nations and recycle less,\" the unit said. Britain has had to meet EU environmental legislation on the safe disposal of old cars, as well as old domestic appliances.
But bureaucratic wrangling over how these rules were to be applied created long delays as well as a mountain of old cars that could not be scrapped legally for want of licensed plants and to fly-tipping old fridges that could not recycled or exported as they had been previously.
The danger with the increase in the landfill tax was not a rise in unauthorised or fly-tipping, but rather in the proliferation of incineration plants for disposing of waste, an option that is unpopular with local communities and environmentalists alike.
\"There is always a danger that it will encourage the building of incinerators. Given that the landfill tax is going up by so little over such a long period, you\'re not going to see much fly-tipping,\" Friends of the Earth\'s Childs said.
\"It\'s a look in the right direction, but it needs to be backed up with a bit more legislation and a bit more money,\" he said.
The ESA\'s Walker said that tough legislation was needed to avoid any unpleasant side-effects from raising the cost of dumping waste.
\"There is no point in raising taxes on the one hand and having people avoiding them on the other, the two must go hand in hand,\" he said.
\"That\'s a matter of regulation and of course you need strong regulation to make sure that it doesn\'t happen...We
would like to see the same effort on put towards stopping fly-tipping. It can\'t be seen as an excuse to fly-tip,\" he added.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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