Eric Pickles announced yesterday that the government should treat people with respect as he removed one of the tools that was available to local government for reducing waste
In this case localism is perhaps as much a victim in this case as the ‘pay as you throw’ (PAYT) scheme originally proposed by Labour. If we are to really change the way that we deal with our waste, we need to reduce, reuse and recycle. PAYT gave local authorities the option of linking part of council tax to the amount of waste produced. Those who produced large amounts would have been charged more, but those who reduced their total waste, either through recycling or through consuming less, would have been rewarded. Now this tool is no longer available.
The irony of the Conservatives’ favoured scheme is that householders are rewarded for recycling more, which perversely can come from consuming more. When rewards are based on the weight of your recycling, then why not buy the biggest and heaviest weekend paper you can find? And then use your rewards to buy more stuff that you can recycle to get more rewards?
Incentives have a place to play in changing behaviour, that much is clear. But rewarding good behaviour by encouraging consumption will not help us reduce and reuse, only recycle. Waste policy has just taken one step forward and two steps back.
This article first appeared on ProgressOnline in June 2010.