The current consultation by Defra to remove charges for household DIY wastes at HWRC sites is “contrary to the waste hierarchy”, according to the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC).
To better understand the issues for councils, LARAC, which represents local government recycling officers, undertook a survey to find out what its members thought of the proposals and what consequences might arise if they’re implemented.
Under the proposals, household DIYers would not be charged to get rid of waste, including plasterboards, bricks and bath units.
This is part of a move by government to crack down on fly-tipping, which it says has increased since the beginning of the pandemic.
The government banned charges on local residents disposing of household waste at household waste centres in 2015 and since then Defra says the guidance has “made clear that this includes DIY household waste”. However, around a third of councils charge for certain types of DIY waste.
The changes outlined in a technical consultation will change this rule and could save households up to £10 for an individual item – for example, a sheet of plasterboard.
LARAC, however, says any lost income will have to be covered by local taxpayers.
75% of respondents said they do not believe that councils should accept these wastes for free disposal.
With Ministers deciding that the proposals will not be covered by New Burdens funding, the cost of covering any lost income will mean that other council service budgets will have to be cut, they say.
LARAC believes that the inclusion of drainage and sewer pipes, roofing materials, and lintels are not tasks that a normal householder can complete, but that they require specialist skills as these works will require either building control approval or possibly planning permission.
LARAC said: “We contend that the demolition of these construction materials is beyond the technical scope of householders and can only be undertaken by specialist skilled tradesmen, and therefore this waste is their waste as per the recent consultation on the reform of waste carrier, broker, dealer registrations in England and the UK wide consultation on digital waste tracking.”
These proposals seem to be for the convenience of a few householders and contrary to the waste hierarchy and established practices in many councils which have the support of their local communities and are excellent examples of local democracy in action.
Respondents stated that the number of fly-tips being reported as DIY wastes are under 10%, therefore LARAC said it cannot see how this will have the stated aim of significantly reducing fly-tipping. It said introducing charges does not increase fly tipping.
The number of respondents who levy charges and those that do not were roughly equal.
Of those that do not charge, 58% limit the volume of DIY waste disposed. 15.6% of respondents both charged and limited DIY waste disposal.
Fewer than one in five respondents thought that Defra’s proposals to limit the amounts of DIY waste proposed through capacity (18% confident) and frequency (17% confident) limits are workable and can be enforced.
“Too generous and unworkable”
Whilst LARAC said it understands that residents should be allowed to dispose of small quantities of DIY waste, for example, when digging flower beds (soil) or demolishing a garden wall (rubble), as they cannot be disposed of through kerbside collections, many respondents believe the proposals are “too generous and unworkable”.
Many use smaller volumes of 2 to 6 black sacks worth of material being allowed to be disposed of per visit.
It said the most effective way to control the frequency of visits to reduce congestion on site and the nearby road network will be by using a booking system and 33% of respondents see this as being the most effective way to enforce Defra’s proposed restrictions.
LARAC said it is concerned that the second part of the consultation, which is concerned with booking systems, will be used as a rationale to outlaw their use.
51% of respondents said that Defra’s proposals to restrict uncontrolled disposal of DIY waste at HWRCs are “unenforceable”.
“If these wastes are reclassified as household wastes, then all waste disposal authorities will have to make arrangements for a waste management company to collect these wastes from at least two of their HWRC sites, to comply with s.51(1)b of the Environmental Protection Act 1990,” LARAC said.
“Given that they should be collected separately to facilitate effective recycling, this means that individual skips or containers for each will have to be provided, which could cause space issues on already crowded HWRC sites and increase congestion for residents.
“As these materials will be recorded as Local Authority Collected Wastes (LACW) if received through a HWRC site, they will count as residual waste if local recycling solutions cannot be arranged. This is contrary to the proposals for the new environmental targets to support the Resources and Waste Strategy, as these state.”
“So, for the environmental targets Defra do not want to include these types of waste due to the activities that produce them but are happy that they can be included when received through a HWRC site once reclassified as wastes a normal householder will create.
“This appears a contradiction and shifts away from “the polluter pays” principle of resource management and puts the onus on all local taxpayers to cover the costs of dealing with these wastes. Or will councils have to calculate and exclude them from their LACW statistical returns to be in line with the new environmental targets? This is additional bureaucracy as well as cost.”
LARAC fears that with it being “almost impossible” to identify whether delivered wastes were created by a householder or by a trades person, this will increase the volumes currently being disposed of.
“Traders will leave waste from their activities for the householder to deal with or bring it to a HWRC site for free disposal, on the pretence that it is their own household waste,” LARAC said.
“This is in contradiction with the consultations on digital waste tracking and waste carrier registration which propose tighter controls on DIY wastes and who produces them.”
Many respondents said that the proposals could mean the closure of some HWRC sites to cover the increased costs of accepting these materials if charges cannot be levied, or the removal of non-statutory waste streams or reduction of containers for household wastes and recycling at HWRC sites to make room for the containers to be able to receive these DIY wastes.
LARAC said: “These proposals seem to be for the convenience of a few householders and contrary to the waste hierarchy and established practices in many councils which have the support of their local communities and are excellent examples of local democracy in action.”