Waste charging proposals are rubbish

Wheeliebin - photo by en-Wikipedia user Joolz - click for original image and further informationA number of local authorities in the UK have started to fit microchips to dustbins so that they can monitor how much rubbish households are throwing away. Many commentators believe councils will eventually use the technology to charge households according to the weight of their waste.

Now, I think charging according to the amount thrown away is a good idea in principle. I’m often amazed at how much waste some small one- or two-people households produce each week, filling a large wheelie bin, whereas mine is often hardly half full. The relatively small number of people who bother to use the recycling service is also quite pitiful.

Unfortunately, I think the idea is unworkable, and likely to be extremely unfair. What is to stop people sneaking rubbish into a neighbour’s bin? Most people leave their dustbin out in the street the night before collection day; even if they don’t, it will be left outside all day while they are at work. The only solution to this would be to provide some new sort of high-tech bin complete with a lock, but as councils have already started to fit bins with microchips, it seems unlikely there are any plans to do this.

As with any sort of metering (water being another example) it’s likely to hit certain groups of people harder than others. People with young children, for example, might find they are paying much more for their refuse collection, which isn’t necessarily desirable (although perhaps this could be addressed through the benefit system). It could also be bad for people living in multiple-occupancy accommodation: the tidy, conservation-aware people who already have to pay high water or heating bills, and spend their time cleaning up after other people, might find they also have to pay for others’ rubbish to be thrown away. People living in flats might have a problem too, particularly if there are communal dustbins. Flat-dwellers also won’t have the chance to compost waste if they have no garden, and are already often denied the chance to recycle as it’s inconvenient for councils to include flats in their recycling schemes.

Another undesirable side-effect of charging by weight of a dustbin would be an increase in fly-tipping. At present, a lot of illegally dumped rubbish is commercial; in the future, we could see far more domestic waste in the hedgerows – or even simply left on the street corner with no-one wanting to claim responsibility for it, and even the most community-spirited neighbour reluctant to put it in their own bin due to the charge this would incur.

Finally, does anyone believe that the new fees for refuse collection would be balanced by a reduction in council tax?

So let’s not introduce this unfair and badly thought out scheme. Instead, they could start by offering incentives for people to recycle (for Leicester City Council, that could mean actually bothering to collect recyclable items that council tax payers have left in their green box outside their house…) Something also has to be done to reduce the amount of packaging that new items come in, and to educate people about re-using boxes, bags and envelopes.

And if they really want to encourage people to put less in their wheelie bins, could I suggest issuing smaller bins? If the size is insufficient, a larger bin could be provided, but at a cost. That would be far simpler to implement and harder to abuse. While not perfect as an idea, it would be less rubbish.

4 responses to “Waste charging proposals are rubbish”

  1. Lena

    Charging according to the amount thrown away is unworkable. Even the different family diet custom also can influence the rubbish output.
    Your suggestion is a great idea. But it still has the possibility people to throw superfluous rubbish into the public bins or simply leave them on the street corner.

  2. Joseph Siddall

    As usual, a scheme conjured up by those with little practical knowledge to give their political masters something to crow about. It all depends upon us being scrupulously honest…………..so is bound to fail. I would far rather see a scheme whereby we could all take our relevant waste packaging back to the shop/supermarket we bought the goods from, for them to dispose of it. They would very quickly put pressure on their suppliers to rethink the amount of packaging their products actually need. Reductions would flow all along the packaging stream with energy/resource reduction at every step. Our local authority tun a scheme whereby for every bag of garden etc rubbish you take in to the tip they give you a token. Collect three tokens and you can exchange them for a free bag of compost. Works well but you could, of course buy your own composter.

  3. Guy S

    In reply to Joseph, we all have a the right to chose in life, espcially when shopping, we should all consider what we buy and if something has been overpackaged then the supermarket should be left to deal with it. When your at the checkout follow the WI’s example and leave the packaging at the checkout when you leave.

    Paying for what you throw away is in principal a blummin’ brilliant idea, and why shouldn’t it work. We all need to take responsibility for our own waste and think a little more about what we throw away. Landfills will run out thats a fact, so unless we want to create more of them we need to start doing soemthin now surely.

    I do think we should be encouraged to recycle more, like a points scheme which could be used for money of food shopping or something.

  4. morbidmedia

    I am English and now live in Holland (over 6 years), we already have it in place where we are charged by the weight for rubbish disposal, it is weighed when the bins are picked up by the rubbish collector, this only happens in smaller towns, where it is less likely that someone else will put their rubbish in your bin, to combat this in the bigger towns and for housing estates, they issue a card with a magnetic strip to the householder and have collection points where you can throw your rubbish down a shute, you have to swipe your card on the panel at the top, it then opens and you then put the bag in and it weighs it, you then close the top of the shute and down it goes, once a week the binmen come around and empty the rubbish and read off the info with a portable unit and then you get the bill.

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