Charging for non-household waste including DIY type waste at Household Waste Recycling Centres
Under the EPA 1990, Section 51(1)(b) places a duty on a Waste Disposal Authority (WDA) ‘to arrange for places to be provided at which person resident in its area may deposit their ‘household waste’ and for the disposal of waste so deposited. Section 51(2)(b) expressly provides that the arrangements made pursuant to Section 51(2) (b) shall be such that the deposit of household waste is free of charge by residents but the arrangements may restrict the availability of specified places to specified descriptions of waste.
Household waste is defined by section 75(1) of the EPA as meaning waste from inter alia ‘domestic property, that is to say, a building or self-contained part of a building which is used wholly for the purposes of living accommodation’ Section 75(7) empowers the Government to make regulations to provide that waste of a certain description shall or shall not constitute household waste. This has been set out in the Controlled Waste (England & Wales) Regulations 2012.
Paragraph 3 of Schedule 1 of the Regulations specifies ‘waste from construction or demolition works including preparatory works’ is classified as ‘industrial’ waste and as such does not constitute ‘household’ waste. Under the Regulations ‘construction’ includes improvement, repair or alteration. Consequently a significant number of WDAs have introduced charging for this type of waste on the basis that it does not constitute household waste and hence does not have to be accepted free of charge.
Austerity has encouraged local government to review all aspects of its service to the extent that most authorities are now only able to provide those services that they have a statutory duty to do so. Significant cuts in funding have resulted in local authorities either withdrawing discretionary services or continuing to provide the service but at a cost to the user. Charging for non household waste at Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) is an example whereby councils have sought to continue to offer their residents a service but have needed to recover their cost of doing so. The alternative would be to withdraw the service altogether which could potentially lead to an increase in fly tipping or leaving the resident to use a commercial service generally at a higher cost as often there is much higher minimum charge.
There is no legal definition of DIY waste. The WRAP ‘Household Waste Recycling Centre (HWRC) Guide states that ‘DIY waste is classed as household waste if it results from work a householder would normally carry out’ but this is open to interpretation as to whether it extends to include Construction & Demolition (C&D) waste which is clearly defined within the Regulations. Indeed the WRAP Guidance has included Table 5.1 which highlights a range of materials for which charges may be levied including ‘DIY wastes’.
Under Waste Data Flow plasterboard, rubble, soil and asbestos are specifically highlighted as not classed as being ‘waste from households’ along with all C&D waste. Consequently none of these materials are included in the recycling calculation which calculates the recycling rate for each Authority for household waste.
Introduction of charging for non-household type waste has delivered significant savings to those authorities that have taken this step. In Devon these savings are estimated to be in the region of £1 million per annum. Whilst fly tipping did increase directly after the introduction of charging it then settled back down to levels recorded prior to the introduction of charging. It has encouraged innovative re-use of construction & demolition type waste as well as generated an increase in use of commercial waste services. It has also reduced trade waste abuse at the HWRCs.
If legislation is changed such that Local Authorities have to accept C&D waste free of charge then it is likely to have a significant impact on those authorities that have already introduced charges. |f C&D waste produced by a householder is to be reclassified as DIY (Household) waste then decisions will need to be made whereby an authority may elect to only accept this type of waste at a limited number of HWRCs or alternatively close sites completely to offset the increase in costs of managing C&D waste. The impact of these decisions is likely to lead to an overall reduction in recycling and significant increase in fly tipping.
There is also the Equality Act to be considered in that those able bodied householders would be able to dispose of their C&D waste for free if they can carry out home improvement works themselves whereas others may not be so fortunate. Hence an Impact Assessment should be undertaken for any potential change in legislation. Local authorities should be free to decide in consultation with their residents what services are provided in their area, when charges are levied and the scale of fees and charges. It cannot be right that home improvement works for some residents are subsidised by the taxpayer by allowing free disposal.