Government scraps DIY waste charges

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow announced yesterday (18 June) that households will no longer have to pay to dispose of DIY waste starting later this year. [Article updated 22 June]

Construction waste from the renovation of the apartment is thrown into a large bag for disposal. Broken bricks in construction waste bags.Defra's decision to scrap DIY waste charges aims to encourage responsible waste management, focusing on the importance of household convenience alongside environmental conservation.

Currently, around a third of UK Local Authorities charge households for the disposal of DIY waste at household waste recycling centres (HWRCs), which has been a point of contention, with concerns about impact on waste disposal habits and costs. The latest changes could potentially save households up to £10 per individual item – such as a sheet of plasterboard.

The new stance builds upon the 2015 law, which clarified that local taxpayers should not be charged for disposing of household waste at civic amenity sites. The Government has repeatedly stated that councils should not be charging for DIY household waste disposal either and today’s announcement confirms that it should be treated the same as household waste.

Expected Impact of the Change

As well as making waste disposal more accessible and cost-effective, Defra expects the knock-on effects of the shift in policy will be wide-ranging, from a decrease in the usage of 'waste cowboys' – unregulated services that often resort to fly-tipping – to a decrease in waste-related crimes.

Speaking about this decision, Environment Minister Rebecca Pow stated: “We want to make it as easy as possible for people to dispose of their waste properly and that’s why we are removing the financial burden on doing the right thing with DIY trash.

“This not only supports our wider work to tackle fly-tipping and waste crime, but we are helping home improvers across the nations make their dream projects a reality.”

Response to the change

Defra reports that the move to abolish DIY waste charges was met with significant public support, with over 90 per cent of the 2,238 responses to the consultation agreeing with the proposals.

Endorsing the government's action, Jacob Hayler, the Executive Director of the Environmental Services Association, remarked, "We welcome any measures that make it easier for householders to dispose of waste correctly and responsibly at their local Household Waste Recycling Centre, which in turn reduces the chance of it falling into the hands of criminals or being fly-tipped."

However, as reported by the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee in June 2022, many local authorities question the abolition of these disposal fees for DIY waste.

Reflecting this, Carole Taylor, Executive Director at LARAC commented: "LARAC is disappointed with DEFRA’s decision to remove charges associated with the disposal of household DIY waste at HWRCs. When the consultation was released in 2022, LARAC surveyed its members, and an overwhelming majority of 75 per cent did not approve abolishing the charges. This was reflected in Local Authorities consultation responses in 2022.

"LARAC believes charging is fairer because, as is the case currently, DIY waste is priced by volume, and householders are not restricted in the amounts of DIY and construction waste they can dispose of. This is fair to all and does not penalise low-income households, who will now have to cover these costs through potentially increased council tax charges. This is especially important in the current cost of living crisis.

"From the survey of our members in 2022, many local authorities said that they saw the received volumes of DIY waste reduce when they introduced charges. It follows that by increasing the opportunity for free disposal, Government will increase the volume of DIY and construction waste councils will receive. As there is no evidenced increase in fly-tipping, it is likely that these wastes were diverted into legal disposal channels through private waste management companies, such as skip hire."

LARAC point to the WRAP report The relationship between fly-tipping and HWRC charging that does not show that lcoal authorities that introduced charging for some HWRC waste have higher fly-tipping rates than those that do not charge. Taylor added that the organisation thought that 'the option of restricting residents who wish to deposit DIY waste at HWRCs to four visits over four weeks will be difficult to implement in most cases and end up costing local authorities more by way of systems needed to monitor and enforce this process. We would urge the Government to re-think this suggestion and work with us and our members to agree a better solution.'

The National Association of Waste Disposal Officers (NAWDO) similarly expressed disappointment at the decision to remove some charges. In a statement it questions Defra’s logic that removing charges is fairer: “[This] proposal ignores the ‘Producer Pays’ principle and will essentially force all householders to fund the provision of a free service for those few who are able to afford to undertake DIY construction-type projects at home. This seems to be at odds with the Government’s suggestion that stopping charges of this type will support householders at a time when the cost of living is challenging for everyone.”

It added that the proposed timetable for introducing the changes will impact councils economically: “The Government’s decision will have significant negative financial impacts on local authorities at a time when budgets for 2023-24 have already been agreed and the future financial picture is extremely difficult. Funding the handling and disposal of this type of waste will be costly and is likely to affect service provision across many areas.”

Similarly pointing to the WRAP research, NAWDO also questions whether removing charges will materially affect the level of flytipping, suggesting that other pending reforms need to be presented first: “NAWDO has been supporting lobbying for reforms to waste crime sentencing guidelines and would like to see progress after the consultations held in early 2022 on Digital Waste Tracking and the reform of the Waste Carrier, broker, dealer registration; the responses to which have yet to be published.
“Local authorities across England have been waiting since Autumn 2021 for the Government to publish its proposed changes to waste regulations. NAWDO members are frustrated that proposals such as this ban on charges is being implemented at a time where there remains a great deal of uncertainty about how and when other aspects of the proposed reforms to the waste sector, as set out in the Resources and Waste Strategy (2018), are going to be implemented.”

Definition of DIY waste

The updated legislation now clearly defines DIY waste and sets specific conditions for it to be treated as household waste. These include parameters such as the scale of construction or demolition works at the home, whether the activities generate income, the frequency of HWRC visits, and the quantity of waste produced per visit. Specifically:

  • The waste is produced by householders whilst carrying out small-scale construction or demolition works at their home;
  • The waste does not arise from activities that generate an income for the person who carried them out;
  • The waste is not produced on a regular basis requiring HWRC visits more frequently than four times per household over a four week period; and
  • The quantity of waste per visit is no greater than two 50L rubble bags or 1 bulky or fitted item no larger than 2000mm x 750mm x700mm, such as a bath tub.

If these parameters are not met, the waste is considered construction waste and therefore subject to charges.

Wider Government action against waste crime

The abolition of DIY waste charges ties in with the government's broader initiatives to combat waste crime, which currently costs the English economy an estimated £924m per year. Further actions include support for measures like mandatory digital waste tracking and reform of the licensing regime, aimed at preventing and penalizing waste crimes.

Earlier this year, grants totalling £775,000 were announced to help councils roll out a range of projects designed to combat fly-tipping. In addition, consultations are underway on reforming the waste carrier, broker, dealer regime and the development of a fly-tipping toolkit in partnership with the National Fly-Tipping Prevention Group.

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