The department for communities and local government (DCLG) has said it intends to prevent councils from making residents pay to use household recycling centres.
It has launched a consultation on the matter expressing concern that the levies will increase fly-tipping and the illegal burning of waste.
In the document, DCLG points out that the Civic Amenities Act 1967 and the Environmental Protection Act 1990 mandate that recycling centres are free to use but some local authorities have labelled some charges as discretionary.
“By classifying them as ‘discretionary’ they are attempting to impose a ‘backdoor’ charge, circumventing the will of Parliament and the Government who have a clearly expressed policy of free-to-use centres for residents,” it says.
DCLG has also noted that charging those seeking to deposit end-of-life electronics could be in breach of the WEEE regulations.
The department said it wants to use a statutory instrument to amend the Local Government Act 2003 to prohibit such charges.
Councils that have already introduced levies would be exempt from the rules, but they would need to find alternative arrangements for their centres by 2020.
DCLG is also seeking suggestions on how household waste recycling centres at risk of closure can stay open without local authorities resorting to charging their residents.
It has invited feedback on the proposals from all English local authorities, the Local Government Association, the waste industry, the voluntary sector and members of the public.
“This discussion paper invites comments on the Secretary of State’s proposed approach to upholding the principle that residents should continue to have free access to household waste recycling centres in their local authority area where they can deposit their household rubbish and recycling for free,” it said.
The consultation closes on 18 February, with the new regulations envisaged to come into force on 31 March 2015.