Government responds to collections consistency concerns

The government has told local authorities that there will be no flexibility in the recyclable materials that they will be required to collect from households under collections consistency plans, but there may be room for manoeuvre on how those materials are collected.

Government responds to collections consistency concernsThe government was responding to an inquiry into the Resources and Waste Strategy carried out in 2019 by Parliament’s Housing, Communities and Local Government (HCLG) Committee, which focused particularly on the issue of collections consistency across England.

Government to consult on new environmental governance bodyThe Committee had recommended that the government allow flexibility for local authorities to develop recycling strategies and collection systems appropriate for their local circumstances.

Government proposals on consistency of household collections, included in the Environment Bill, set a core set of dry recyclable materials to be separately collected from the kerbside in at least four containers, with residual waste collections happening at least every two weeks, while weekly separate food waste collections and free garden waste collections are also to be implemented.

The Committee went as far as to accuse the government of trying to ‘dictate from the centre that which would be better determined by local decision makers’.

In its response published on Tuesday (19 May), the government rejected the claims that it is seeking to dictate from the centre and said that it believes local authorities are ‘best placed to understand their local circumstances’

However, it went on to say that ‘local authorities will be required to collect glass, metal, plastic, paper and card, food waste and garden waste for recycling', as set out in the Environment Bill and that there would be ‘no exemptions from collecting core materials’.

Despite this, the government did concede that ‘local circumstances will mean that some local authorities are not able to separate dry materials in every circumstance’, in which case mixed collections may be required and that the government would produce statutory guidance to assist councils on this.

Elsewhere, on the topic of separate food waste collections the government is adamant that separate collection of food waste for treatment through anaerobic digestion is the best route forward and it will work with councils that do not currently collect food waste – either separately or mixed with garden waste – to introduce collections “where practicable”. With regard to garden waste collections, the government maintains that a free service would be the “best approach” but is giving further consideration to the costs and benefits of this proposal.

The government added that it had consulted widely with local authorities prior to drawing up its proposals on consistency, but that it would “review arrangements” over how it engages with the Local Government Association (LGA) and local government representatives going forward in future consultations on consistency, the deposit return scheme (DRS) for beverage containers and an extended producer responsibility (EPR) scheme for packaging.

It also maintained that it is “committed to funding the new burdens on local government” when the new schemes to be brought in by the Environment Bill are put in place from 2023.

One such form of funding support being explored relates to concerns that the introduction of a DRS would divert valuable materials, such as PET plastic, away from local authority kerbside collections, harming council revenue streams. The government has said that it is exploring a funding formula ‘whereby local authorities could be paid the deposit amount on drinks containers collected at kerbside without having to physically return them via a designated return point’.

You can view the government’s response to the HCLG’s inquiry in full on the UK Parliament website.

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