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The state fines businesses for recycling

Shane Greer reports on his attempt to get Westminster City Council to recycle business waste. It turns out that the council, while willing to collect his office’s waste, will not recycle any of that waste – and will fine him if he puts his waste in recycling facilities aimed at domestic users. That sounds awfully like punishing businesses that try to be green.

The problem with councils running recycling services is that they are inefficient and fail to innovate. They use outdated methods that are expensive, and end up recycling in the same way as British Leyland used to make Austin Minis (at a loss).

In large parts of Ireland, a recent report by Gordon Hector points out, the state has let the free market deal with refuse collection: individual customers choose from private companies and pay directly, rather than through council tax. Competition has meant that technologies and methods unknown in the UK have been deployed. Greyhound, one of Ireland’s larger waste companies, recycles 87% of the rubbish it receives (because recycling is good for its profits). The best-performing council in the UK only recycles 55% of waste; the lowest 11%.

This might not compute with environmental activists, but yet again we see that the free market is greener than state control.

- Update: On another brain-dead environmental issue, have a look what the council at Basingstoke is doing to destroy the local environment and harm taxpayers simultaneously, by pushing development into the beautiful Lodden Valley, instead of on the bod-standard land it already owns in Manydown.

12 comments to The state fines businesses for recycling

  • Nick Timms

    Business waste may not be put into domestic recycling facilities because businesses in the UK do not pay for waste collection of any type through the Business Rate.

    The current regulations say that all businesses must have a waste contractor, which could be a local council. In fact the local council must provide a collection service, either directly or sub-contracted, if requested by the business, but businesses have to pay for collection and disposal. (There are many variations on this depending upon the type of business and the type of waste but that is a reasonable generalisation).

    We estimate that about 40% of UK busineses are using domestic recycling facilities, council waste collection facilities, and street bins to dispose of all their waste. This is being subsidised by the domestic council tax co-erced from all domestic property owners.

    At present these 40% of businesses are effectively stealing from the domestic council tax payers and the local authorities do not have sufficient enforcement officers to deal with this issue which is actually a criminal offense with fines up to £5k and 3 months in prison.

  • Nick Timms

    Despite the facts I have posted above, I would agree with your point that private enterprise is greener than any kind of government run waste collection service because being efficient is good for profits. Local authorities are only concerned with attaining targets set by their political masters.

  • I had cause to nee to replace my car battery the other day. I can recall a time when you could get money back on your old battery. The lead would be salvaged and re used. Much the same was true of cars.

    The mechanic informed me that this is no longer the case. He couldn’t take the battery as it would actually cost him to dispose of it. He said I could still take it to the communal tip at no extra cost. He was not sure if it was still recycled in any way.

    Well Bully! So we go from a simple private enterprise system where you actually got paid for your old battery and it was recycled, to a complex system that businesses have to pay through the nose to use under the threat of huge files and jail sentences, that may or may not eventually result in some recycling taking place.

    Why? As near as I can gather the Hazardous Waste Regulations 2005. based around the ‘Hazardous Waste List’ that is apparently in turn based on the ‘European Waste Catalogue’ . I wonder if the regulations are really effectively imposed by Europe too…

  • Phil, the way I recycled a car battery was to leave it on the pavement outside my house. Within 12 hours it had gone.

  • dan

    Ian and Phil,

    Over the last two years, the price of lead has nearly tripled, and the value of battery cores has gone from a (U.S. market) price of @$3 to upwards of $10.

    Phil, to hear that your local shop wouldn’t buy it back leads me to believe it was a parts store, and likely they weren’t covered for carrying hazardous materials, which battery cores are definitely. My suggestion is to get hold of a battery specialist and see what they’ll give you.

    Ian, batteries are filled with lead and acid. Leaving it on your porch is the most convenient, but potentially the most costly if some busybody public servant spots the infraction and sends over someone to fine you, or the acid spills and ruins whatever it falls upon – wood, concrete, grass, etc. Plus, by leaving it for scavengers, you implicitly invite them back to see what else of yours they may want to take for scrap.

    The point of the post is definitely true stateside – the market has provided a means of effective, efficient, and profitable recycling and disposal for this segment of the auto industry, to the point that core collection is the heart of my company’s operations – market price for new batteries is substantially less than the cost, save for the value of the recycled core product.

  • Ian B

    Being currently trapped in the 20th century (I’m on dialup waiting for my broadband to follow me to my new address) I will be brief.

    Recycling, in the overwhelming majority of the materials recycled, is complete bollocks. Be wary of “free enterprise” solutions since they aren’t in general, they’re businesses that exist because governments force their populations to trade with them. In a free market, only a few genuinely valuable as second use materials would be recycled, and in those cases we already had private enterprise recycling- scrap merchants, rag and bone men, deposits on bottles.

    Take paper. What the hell is the use of recycling this stuff? It’s made of trees. Trees are made of carbon. Even ignoring the myth that we’ve got too much carbon, the biosphere does our recycling for us. That’s what “emissions” are; the carbon going back into the atmosphere to be used again by plants. It’s all a load of old rubbish, this recycling.

    So no, don’t call for faux “private” solutions. Call for the abolition of obligatory recycling. If garbage was worth anything to the free market, companies would be bidding for your rubbish, not suckling at the government teat while armies of nasty little Hitlers run around enforcing regulations and poking about in dustbins, the bastards.

    It’s all a communist plot. Strike a blow for freedom by sticking it all in your black sacks so your rubbish goes where it deserves to go; to an incinerator or a big hole in the ground.

  • Nick Timms

    My business recycles paper, cardboard, plastics and metals because there is a market for business recycling. It is irrelevent to me that most of this market has been artificially created by government and EU edicts. It is also irrelevent to me, and my business associates, that about 70% of our customers think that recycling these items is a good idea and willingly pay us to take these items away. The fact is this market exists and while it does we are going to make some money from it.

    Ian, you have to be retarded if you really believe that you are striking a blow against petty regulations and the world of jobsworths by putting everything into black sacks for landfill.

  • Ian B

    It is irrelevent to me that most of this market has been artificially created by government and EU edicts

    It may be irrelevant to you, but it’s of utmost significance. If the government declared that everyone must wear a bowler hat, that would create a huge artificial market for bowler hats. That would be very good for bowler hat makers, but a waste of resources that could be used better in the economy. Every time the government artificially creates a market, that market is parasitic on the real, productive economy. The more of it the government does, the more the real economy is dragged down.

    You need to look up on an internet what “rent seeking” is. That’s where one business pressurises the government into creating a market for them or, more accurately, into transferring money into their pocket (the transferred money being a “rent”). Your business only exists due to government patronage. The money you make is transferred out of the productive economy, into your unproductive business. Congratulations, you won a prize at the expense of everybody else.

    That may be irrelevant to you, but it’s as relevant as heck to the rest of us who are paying to keep you in the style to which you are accustomed; just as we may rather grumble in my example at forking out for yet another useless bowler hat just because the law says we must wear them.

    You’re a parasite, Nick. One of the swarm that are slowly, but surely, killing the host body of the productive economy. That’s pretty retarded, too.

  • tranio

    There is a street corner in Vancouver’s trendy Kitsilano area that has become the unofficial recycling spot for people’s cast offs, 4th and MacDonald. It’s the site of an old petrol station whose ground is being remediated from leaking fuel in the past. It has a 6 foot high wire fence all around which is very convenient to hang things from. Vancouver has a very active FREE section on CraigsList as well if you want to get rid of stuff. I see that Craigslist is migrating to the UK so recycle folks.

  • Nick Timms

    What I am Ian is a husband and father trying to make a living in a socialist nightmare of high taxation and petty regulation. I am a capitalist. I see a market, however artificial, (and that I did not create) and I see an opportunity.

    That is not parasitism. That is pragmatism. I once bought a shop and was naive enough to believe that because I liked something I should sell it. I nearly lost my shirt. I then started to sell what my customers wanted to buy. I had a pretty low opinion of most of my customer’s tastes but I realised that my income was dependent upon my satisfying their needs and wants, not mine.

    You can be as idealistic as you want Ian. I prefer to live with reality.

    As it happens I also do not believe in anthropogenic global warming and, if anyone were to ask my opinion I would tell them, but the fact is a lot of my customers do believe in AGW. I sell them what they want. I would prefer sheeple investigated these issues and did not take what they hear from the MSM as gospel but they do not. Thats the real world. The place I live in. What do you call the place you live in?

  • Nick Timms

    ‘Rent seeking’???? That would only be true if I had created the market or successfully bought the regulations I needed from some politician. Ian, your remarks are offensive because I have never, and would never, do any of these things. I am simply reacting to a market that exists, despite its absurdity. If the government were to make bowler hat wearing mandatory damn right I would be selling them but mine would be the best bloody bowler hats available. I despise government involvement in almost everything but it is a reality that I deal with.