Recycling and waste

Waste Strategy for England 2007: Incentives for Recycling by Households

Methane emissions from landfill count for about 3% of UK greenhouse gas emissions. We have made progress in reducing waste to landfill - household waste recycling has quadrupled in the last 10 years and waste is growing much less quickly than the economy.  However, we still lag behind much of Europe and we need to do more.

Following consultation over the summer of 2007 we announced that the Climate Change Bill will provide a power for local authorities to pilot incentives for household waste minimisation and recycling.  This will allow pilot authorities to recognise more effectively the efforts of those householders who reduce, reuse and recycle their waste, and provide an incentive to those who do not change their behaviour.

The Climate Change Bill has passed through the House of Lords and is now being considered in the House of Commons.

A maximum of five local authorities will be able to pilot the schemes.  Councils will be able to come forward with their own schemes, for approval by the Secretary of State, that fit local circumstances. This approach will allow us to monitor the impacts of incentives in England and report back to Parliament before a decision is made whether to roll them out more widely.

Powers in the Bill would enable authorities to pay rebates to householders for good performance on recycling and waste minimisation. They would also allow an authority, if it wanted to, to collect incentive based payments from householders for their waste collection.  To avoid placing additional burdens on local residents, we are requiring that any pilot requesting  payments from householders must return to residents all the revenue it collects. This means that residents as a whole will not be paying more.  We are also enabling authorities to pay back rebates, and collect any payments, through Council Tax, should they wish to do so. Once the powers come into force Government will publish guidance on the operations of the schemes. Draft guidance for informal comment is available below.

We have built in further checks and balances to help ensure the right level of public protection.  Pilots could only be introduced where there was a good kerbside recycling service in place. Authorities will have to take account of the needs of, or impacts on, potentially disadvantaged groups – for example families with young children or the elderly.  Pilot authorities will also have to have a flytipping prevention strategy in place. Evidence from other countries suggests that fly tipping would not necessarily increase, but we consider that having a strategy in place is good common sense. Again, guidance will give more detail of these safeguards – see above link.

In June 2008, Defra wrote to local authorities about waste incentives schemes. The letter is available below.

The Written Ministerial Statement to Parliament (15 November 2007) is available below, as is the Impact Assessment which evaluates potential costs and benefits.

2007 consultation

In 2007 the Government consulted on incentives for household waste minimisation and recycling, and received 171 responses. See the 2007 consultation documents below:

Factsheet information


Defra funded a research project to examine the potential impact of waste charging in England. Government believes that the costs and benefits identified in this report apply equally to a charging scheme or a revenue-neutral financial incentive scheme. The project has been peer reviewed. The project did not consider local government finance issues – for example, whether any financial incentive scheme should be revenue neutral or how it should interact with Council Tax.

Further information

Page last modified: 20 June 2008
Page published: 24 May 2007

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs