Let local authorities tailor their own recycling strategies, MPs say

The government’s approach to recycling is ‘overly prescriptive’ and local authorities must be allowed to tailor recycling strategies to the needs of their communities, the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee has said.

In a letter to Local Government minister Rishis Sunak, the Committee criticises the current ‘wrong’ approach, set out in the Waste Strategy, and urges greater flexibility on collections.

It adds that the Waste Strategy cannot place ‘extra burdens’ on local authorities without also providing the financial means to support them, warning that initial investment in infrastructure to boost recycling capacity will need to be followed by proven long-term streams of funding to cover ongoing costs.

The Committee has set out the following recommendations for government:

  • It must allow local authorities greater flexibility in how recycling targets are met.
  • Local authorities should retain as much flexibility as possible to determine the most effective waste collection strategies for their communities.
  • More information is needed on the additional sources of funding that local authorities will receive to meet the additional costs arising from the Waste Strategy, including set-up costs and ongoing operation.
  • There should be greater clarity on how the money raised from the proposed Extended Producer Responsibility Scheme will be passed on to local authorities and the government should commit to undertaking a regular review of the funding levels it delivers.
  • Existing recycling infrastructure is inadequate to meet ambitious targets and significant investment (potentially, £20bn) will be needed.

Chair of the Committee, Clive Betts said: ‘The government has recognised the need for a comprehensive Waste Strategy with ambitious targets for improving recycling rates and reducing our impact on the environment.

‘However, we believe that the government has set out the wrong approach for achieving these objectives. The government should not seek to dictate that which is best determined by local decision-makers.

‘In determining how often waste should be collected, the number of recycling bins or what services should be charged for, the government appears to have forgotten that what works in rural areas may not be suitable for cities. Local authorities understand what the challenges are in their areas and should be given the freedom to tailor their approach to meet them.’

Responding, a government spokesperson said: ‘We are pleased the Committee recognises the ambition of our plans to boost recycling through the Resources and Waste Strategy.

‘Whilst we understand that councils are best placed to meet the needs of their residents, our priority is to drive-up recycling rates and end the confusion for householders.

‘Under our plans, businesses and manufacturers will also pay the full cost of recycling or disposing of packaging that ends up in household waste each year, so councils are not left to pick up the tab.’

Thomas Barrett

Thomas Barrett

Journalist. Follow him on Twitter

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