Charging for domestic waste: Combining environmental and equity considerations


Compared with most other EU member states, the UK has a relatively low rate of recycling of household waste, and sends a relatively high proportion to disposal in landfill. Under the provisions of the EU Landfill Directive, this situation will have to change radically in the next ten years, with much less waste being sent to landfill, in a context in which the quantity of household waste continues to increase at about 3% per year. A number of national policy documents have in recent years proposed how this challenge might be addressed, most recently the report from the Strategy Unit in 2002, Waste Not, Want Not.

Analysis in the Strategy Unit report suggests that, however the UK disposes of its waste in the coming years, and in the absence of waste reduction measures, waste disposal costs are likely to double to £3.2 billion by 2020. The increase will be much greater if the landfill tax increases from its current rate of £14 per tonne (for active waste) to £35 per tonne in the medium term, as announced by the Chancellor in the 2003 Budget.

This paper examines how changes in taxation and waste charging might reduce impact on poorer households and/or increase recycling rates.

Research Discussion Paper 20

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