LARAC: Defra claims in DIY waste consultation are ‘misleading’

In a statement, the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) has said that Defra’s claim that the removal of charges for household DIY wastes at HWRC sites ‘will save householders up to £10 per item’ is ‘misleading’.

HWRCLARAC states that the income lost by HWRCs will ‘have to be covered by local taxpayers’, levelling that this ‘could be seen as an attempt to influence voters during the current cost of living crisis.’

The organisation has undertaken a survey of its members on the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) proposals and their potential consequences. Defra’s consultation was launched in April, seeking views on DIY waste charges and booking systems. The deadline is 4 July.

LARAC’s findings suggest that 75 per cent of respondents ‘do not believe that councils should accept these wastes for free disposal’. As the proposals will not be covered by New Burdens funding, the cost of covering any lost income, the organisation says, will mean that other council service budgets ‘will have to be cut’.

The survey also found that the number of fly-tips being reported as DIY wastes is under 10 per cent, with LARAC asserting that it ‘cannot see how this will have the stated aim of significantly reducing fly-tipping.’ The organisation added that there is evidence that introducing charges does not increase fly-tipping.

The number of respondents who levy charges and those that do not were roughly equal. Of those that do not charge, 58 per cent limit the volume of DIY waste disposed. 15.6 per cent of respondents both charged and limited DIY waste disposal.

Fewer than one in five respondents thought that Defra’s proposals to limit the amounts of  DIY waste proposed through capacity (18 per cent confident) and frequency (17 per cent confident) limits are workable and can be enforced.

The organisation says that whilst it can understand that residents should be allowed to dispose of small quantities of DIY waste, many respondents believe that the proposals are too generous and unworkable. Many only allow smaller volumes of two to six black sacks worth of material to be disposed of per visit.

Construction waste classification

If construction wastes are reclassified as DIY wastes, and therefore household wastes, LARAC states, then ‘all waste authorities will have to make arrangements for a waste management company to collect these wastes from at least two of their HWRC sites’, in order to comply with s.51 (1)b of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

‘Given that they should be collected separately to facilitate effective recycling’, LARAC warns, ‘this means that individual skips or containers for each will have to be provided, which could cause space issues on already crowded HWRC sites and increase congestion for residents.’

These materials would have to be recorded as Local Authority Collected Wastes (LACW), LARAC says, as they would be collected through an HWRC site, counting as residual waste if local recycling solutions cannot be arranged.

The organisation asserts that this is ‘contrary to the proposals for the new environmental targets to support the Resources and Waste Strategy’, which exclude ‘major mineral wastes’ – described as ‘largely inert waste categories from construction and demolition, and excavation and mining activities’. LARAC adds that this ‘contradicts the polluter pays principle’, putting ‘the onus on all local taxpayers to cover the costs of dealing with these wastes’.

LARAC also expressed ‘fear’ that it would be ‘almost impossible to identify whether delivered wastes were created by a householder or by a tradesperson’, which could lead to an increase in the volumes currently being disposed of.

The organisation said: “Traders will leave waste from their activities for the householder to deal with, or bring it to an HWRC site for free disposal, on the pretence that it is their own household waste. This is in contradiction with the consultations on digital waste tracking and waste carrier registration, which propose tighter controls on DIY wastes and who produces them.”

LARAC’s survey found that the proposals could see some HWRCs closed, the removal of non-statutory waste streams, or the reduction of containers for household wastes and recycling.

The organisation concludes: “These proposals seem to be for the convenience of a few householders and contrary to the waste hierarchy and established practices in many councils, which have the support of their local communities and are excellent examples of local democracy in action."