Local authorities and their residents could earn an extra £1 billion by 2020 from waste collections, a Local Government Association (LGA) report has said.
The report suggests this could be achieved through reforming the market to improve the quality of the recyclable material produced by the sector, and by local authorities obtaining a better share of revenue from recycling.
Going beyond current EU targets and increasing the amount of household recycling to 70 per cent could offer even greater rewards, helping to create an estimated 51,000 jobs and generate an extra £3 billion in additional revenue for the UK economy.
But council bosses are warning that unless the Government provides the necessary tools and investment to help them grow the booming waste sector, the country will miss out on the opportunity to unlock the true value of our waste.
The LGA review, Wealth from Waste, outlines how to promote a growing, domestic market for recyclables as well as looking at how to increase recycling and reuse to feed growth in the sector.
It recommends that the Treasury refunds landfill tax receipts through councils and that the Green Investment Bank funds the building of new recycling centres. The report also wants to see new industry guidelines to improve the quality of recycled materials as well as looking at how to increase recycling and reuse.
LGA Environment and Housing Board vice chair Cllr Clyde Loakes said: “There is clearly wealth in waste. The UK’s waste and recycling sector is currently worth around £11 billion and growing at twice the rate of the rest of the economy, but there is so much more we could do to make the most of this booming industry.
“Residents have played their part. By helping us recycle more and more every year, they are helping councils save money on the cost of processing the bins, yet they are being punished, not rewarded, because of the crippling rate rises in landfill tax.
“By freezing landfill tax at its current rate and reinvesting the money through joint council and private sector waste projects, the Treasury could help us stimulate growth, create jobs and boost an important revenue stream for local authorities to limit the impact of budget cuts on local taxpayers and help us continue to deliver the services our residents rely on, from keeping libraries open to caring for the elderly.
“Having already had to cope with 33 per cent funding cuts and with further cuts expected in the upcoming spending round, councils know better than anyone how tight public finances are at the moment. But continuing to cream off increasing landfill tax receipts to balance the Government’s books is not only unfair to taxpayers, it also misses a genuine opportunity to turn the UK’s waste and recycling sector into a world leader.”
Resource Association chair Andy Doran welcomed the report. He added: “Of particular interest to Resource Association members is the recognition and support for measures that can improve quality and increase the value of recovered materials to the supply chain. It is always the case that reprocessors (UK and overseas) will pay good market values for good quality material that meets global specifications and less where it does not.
“We look forward to continued constructive work with the LGA and its member authorities to realise the value within these resources many of which make their first steps back round the circular economy under the management of local authority officers. The views also expressed in the review document on important issues such as the nascent MRF Code of Practice and rebalancing of the PRN/PERN system are very much in line with ours.
“While there is always a lot to be done, the Government could do worse than to seriously consider the recommendations outlined today and afford local authorities some of the flexibility they need to realise the potential that exists in every community.”