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How much council tax should be spent on recycling?

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I am always thinking about how many more hurdles we in waste and recycling management will have to ensure our authority jumps in order for us to continue to perform our everyday work.

I am sure, as ever, that the latest hurdle of providing quality recycling material to help meet materials recycling facility (MRF) guidelines has very good intentions and will prove to be a good idea. But sometimes it would be nice not to have so many regulations passed down to local government on waste and recycling.

Recently, at the Recycling and Waste Management Exhibition, run by LGC’s sister title Materials Recycling World, I was part of a panel discussing the question: ‘Is waste a resource?’

The panellists largely agreed that it was. However, all also agreed that there was a point at which you could spend too much money recovering the waste as a resource.

It is with this point in mind that I return to the MRF guidelines; how much council tax should be spent to satisfy the MRF requirements?

Clearly, having cleaner, less compacted and better sorted waste material delivered to an MRF should result in the waste material being of a higher value to the MRF operator and hopefully the councils. However, officers for councils waste collection services have to weigh up these potential financial benefits against the possibility of higher service costs.

Regrettably, the enhanced value of the cleaner waste material can be minimal and may not cover the extra service costs involved in delivering the waste in this ‘cleaner’ way. The MRF guidelines could have the net result of placing more of the burden of waste recycling on the public purses and away from the producers.

That said, the MRF guidelines used appropriately can help councils, MRF operators and processors, by incentivising change through better auditing, better material values, reduced contamination and better end material for processors. However, a balance between enforcement, collection service costs and MRF operational/sorting skills and costs needs to be recognised.

MRF guidelines used as guidelines and levelled equally will ensure no single partner is disproportionately penalised.

Durk Reyner, vice-chair, Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee




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