By Jennifer Sprinks
Landfill tax needs to rise faster if councils are to speed up efforts to improve waste management, environment experts warn.
However the Chartered Institute for Waste Management has said the tax needs to go up faster. Its south-west regional secretary Terry March said: 'There is a school of thought that the tax should be accelerated by£5 per tonne to meet the£35 per tonne rate before 2011.
'Accelerating the increment would help divert from landfill, as£21 per tonne is not enough to make a difference. At the moment the net cost of recycling is more than the cost of landfill, so [tax rate increases] would offer even more of an incentive by helping to change this balance so that recycling becomes cheaper and the cost of landfill becomes more expensive.'
Peter Jones, director of BIFFA Waste Services Ltd, agreed: 'Landfill is so cheap and the tax is going up too slowly. Contracts for waste management sites will go up quicker if Gordon Brown announces the tax will increase to£35 per tonne.'
Failure to divert from landfill now could incur huge costs for councils in the future due to the Department for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs' annual landfill penalties of£150 per tonne of biodegradable waste through the Landfill Allowance Trading Scheme, should councils exceed their allowance credits.
Adrian Hewitt, Merton LBC's principal environment officer, said higher taxes would be acceptable, providing the government puts the money towards researching technologies for treating waste. 'If the taxes were reinvested then councils would more readily accept it,' he said.
A senior environment source said he thought the Treasury was likely to be more ambitious with its tax rate increases for biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste in landfill in the next budget report.
>> Landfill tax rates:£2 per tonne on non-biodegradable or 'inactive' waste such as rocks and soil and a standard rate of£21 per tonne on active waste because it is more environmentally damaging
>> DEFRA has set a fixed penalty of£150 per tonne for councils which exceed their allowance credits on active waste
>> Councils exceeding allowances could face fines.