A consultation paper , issued today, says any group of two or more authorities will be able to apply to the government to voluntarily transfer waste collection, disposal and/or street cleansing functions to a Joint Waste Authority (JWA).
The paper details options for how JWAs work and asks for views on what the proposals should contain. It enables counties, which are responsible for waste disposal, and districts, which are responsible for rubbish collection, to form joint authorities. Many councils in former metropolitan counties already have JWAs.
Climate change and waste minister Joan Ruddock said: "Joint working on waste is becoming increasingly important, to help authorities to invest in new, sustainable waste facilities more cost effectively. Authorities are already developing innovative ways of working with their neighbours to improve their waste services.
"JWAs can provide local authorities with an additional option for working together - one that will allow them to put their partnership on a statutory footing."
The Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 included powers to allow the establishment of JWAs, which will be governed by elected members of their constituent authorities.
The government says the decision on whether to establish JWAs, which will be new legal bodies established by secondary legislation.
A report on joint working on waste by the Innovation Forum , a group of high-performing authorities, said that councils could achieve£150m worth of possible efficiency savings by working collaboratively. JWA can employ staff directly and can enter into contracts directly with third parties, such as private contractors.
'Costing councils the earth'
A Local Government Association spokesman said: “Disposing of rubbish is quite literally costing councils the earth. The cost of collecting and disposing of waste is increasing all the time, and local authorities have a responsibility to deliver the best possible deal for the taxpayer.
"If a group of councils believe they can work together to deliver services more efficiently, they should have the power to do so.”