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Waste reduction insufficient

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Councils dumped less waste in landfill last year but still forked out£698m in landfill tax, statistics have revealed.

Councils dumped 29.1 million tonnes between October 2006 and September 2007 100,000 tonnes down on the previous year according to provisional figures from the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.

But an increase in recycling from 31% to 33% of total waste was insufficient to ward off fears of huge increases in the cost of landfill in coming years.

Councils were last year taxed£24 per tonne of landfill to encourage them to increase recycling. This was offset by a£291m rebate to compensate for increases in recent years, reducing the net cost to councils to£407m. The tax will increase to£48 per tonne by 2010.

In addition, the European Union will heavily fine councils for failure to hit landfill reduction targets from 2010.

The Local Government Association warned further improvement was urgently needed.

Paul Bettison (Con), chair of the LGA’s environment board, said: “Britain is the dustbin of Europe, throwing more waste into landfill than any other country in the EU. Councils and council taxpayers are still facing fines of up to£3bn if we do not dramatically reduce the amount of waste thrown into landfill.”

In an attempt to reduce landfill, some councils are keen to pilot ‘pay-as-you-throw’ schemes. However, its unpopularity has led to the expectation that prime minister Gordon Brown will shelve the idea in a bid to appease a hostile electorate following Labour’s electoral drubbing.

Meanwhile, research by the New Local Government Network has called for councils to use financial incentives to reward residents who recycle, instead of threatening those who do not with fines.

It predicts the country will run out of landfill space in around nine years.

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