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Environment Secretary visits pay-by-weight manufacturers

Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett officially opened a £2.1 million manufacturing plant for bin-weighing technology in Bradford last week, fuelling further speculation that the Government will introduce variable charging.

The facility, owned by PM Onboard, produces equipment capable of telling how much and what type of rubbish households are throwing away, as well as how much they recycle.

According to PM Onboard marketing manager Mark Bottomley, Beckett was keen to know more about the waste weighing system and the experience learned from other countries where it is operated, as well as the issues that surround a pay-by-weight scheme.

He added: "This Government isn't going to introduce variable charging in the short-term, but it probably will in two to three years' time, after the pilot schemes have been conducted."

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has consistently maintained that it opposes variable charging - the charging of people for waste collection dependent on how much waste they produce - as a solution to increasing recycling rates.

However, over the last few weeks a number of pay-by-weight manufacturers have told MRW they believe that variable charging is only a matter of time.

And according to Bottomley, PM Onboard has been in talks with both Beckett and Environment Minister Elliot Morley, while officials from DEFRA have expressed an interest in the company's system.

DEFRA has put £5 million aside to fund pilot incentive schemes later this year, schemes that may well utilise bin-weighing technology.

Bottomley said: "You could have an incentive scheme where, whatever you put in your recycling bin, you get a credit which can be redeemed over the internet, for things such as cinema passes and restaurant vouchers."

The deadline for local authorities to apply for funding to trial an incentive scheme is July 1.

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