Local authorities are to receive extra funding to meet any new costs and burdens placed on them as a result of any potential changes to waste and recycling collections.
The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs has mooted moving to standardised waste collections, and introducing weekly food waste collections across the country.
The proposals are outlined in the resources and waste strategy for England, published today.
Crucially the strategy said: “Government recognises the financial pressures on local authorities. They will therefore receive additional resource to meet new net costs arising from the policies set out in this strategy once implemented. This includes both net up front transition costs and net ongoing operational costs.”
The government is seeking to “specify a core set of materials to be collected by all local authorities and waste operators”, the strategy said. “Timings for introduction will be subject to discussions at spending review.”
It added: “To support higher levels of recycling by local authorities we will also consult on whether introducing non-binding performance indicators for the quantity of materials collected for recycling and minimum service standards for recycling would support this outcome.”
The potential introduction of “legal powers to introduce mandatory targets for food waste prevention” will also be consulted on.
The strategy said: “As government we must set clear expectations, giving them [councils and waste operators] the confidence to invest in infrastructure to deal with waste and to promote UK-based recycling… And we must, and will, ensure that local authorities are resourced to meet new net costs arising from the policies in this strategy, including up front-transition costs and ongoing operational costs.”
Environment secretary Michael Gove said: “Our strategy sets out how we will go further and faster, to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Together we can move away from being a ‘throw-away’ society, to one that looks at waste as a valuable resource.
“We will cut our reliance on single-use plastics, end confusion over household recycling, tackle the problem of packaging by making polluters pay, and end the economic, environmental and moral scandal that is food waste.
“Through this plan we will cement our place as a world leader in resource efficiency, leaving our environment in a better state than we inherited it.”
Responding to the strategy Martin Tett (Con), Local Government Association environment spokesman, said: “The LGA has long called for businesses and manufacturers to pay the full cost of recycling or disposing of their packaging, and we are pleased the Government has listened to us.
“Councils have been successful in increasing recycling levels and, alongside government, recognise that even more needs to be done to boost recycling to reach national targets and even higher standards.
“But moves to standardise waste services, including weekly food collections, need to be fully funded. Not every council area is currently able to recycle everything due to long-term contracts being held with different companies with different infrastructure available. Therefore, upfront funding is vital to making this work.
“It is crucial that any new system is phased in over time and still allows councils to determine how their local services work for residents, and takes account of the differences between inner city and rural areas.
“Councils look forward to working with government to get any new recycling system right for residents.”
Isobel Darby (Con), District Councils’ Network lead for quality of life, said: “District councils, as the collection authorities, will continue to work to increase recycling rates which improves the quality of life of our residents. However, we must avoid a ‘one size fits all’ approach for standardising services.
“In implementing this strategy it will be vital that comprehensive funding from government is provided to support the delivery of additional and changed services and any changes should be introduced over a transitional period to allow district councils to determine how waste services work best for the different rural and urban communities that they serve.
“Districts are pleased that the new strategy puts more focus on the responsibilities of businesses and manufacturers in recycling and will continue to work closely with them in its implementation.”