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Landfill tax hike: for and against

SITA’s chief executive David Palmer-Jones and Gowing & Pursey director Jack Biel consider the pros and cons of the landfill tax changes

David Palmer-Jones SITA

For: SITA UK chief executive David Palmer-Jones

This has been a grey area, which I know some companies have exploited to great commercial effect, but at the expense of the public purse and completely at odds with the spirit of the landfill tax regime. 

Landfill tax is to help create a true circular economy and not, inadvertently or otherwise, to enable cheap landfilling.

Contrary to comments I have read, I fail to see how this positive step will lead to any significant increase in the cost of recycling or recovery. 

In circumstances where there might be an increase, this will be far outweighed by the benefits, both environmentally and financially, to the overall economy.

This clarification of the rules will mean that all companies, waste management and construction, now compete on a level playing field. What is important is that products are genuinely recycled and extracted from the waste stream.

Against: Gowing & Pursey director Jack Biel

The industry had expected clarification from HMRC but the scope of the brief goes far beyond what might reasonably have been anticipated. 

Disappointingly, no prior consultation has taken place.

Operators of waste transfer stations, waste carriers and recycling companies will all be severely damaged by this.

Landfill operators nationally have charged their customers at the lower rate of tax for inert fines. 

As a result, companies who produce this residual material have entered into price agreements with their own customers - mainly construction and commercial & industrial businesses - which cannot possibly be varied to take account of such a price increase overnight.  

The fact that such an increase has been effectively imposed, without notice, on waste transfer and recycling companies means that those companies could face financial ruin as their own customers will simply not pay such an increase at such impossibly short notice.

Readers' comments (2)

  • It must be nice to have a business that can get rid of their fines in such a way that this change does not affect their costs. Palmer-Jones of Sita is obviously one. I have examined all the alternatives. Not one of them will allow any fines from MRF's to be disposed of legally in any other place than landfill.
    Ironically, landfills need fines. Without them, they will have to purchase alternatives, pushing up operating costs and therefore prices which will be passed on to the customer.
    On top of that, cost backs in the public service will result in reduced policing. Increased fly tipping will be one result. Restoration works will sub standard materials will be another. Reputable companies, like mine, will be pushed to the wall, while those unscrupulous operators will continue to make hay. They will continue their past practices but now with increased margins.
    Mr. Palmer-Jones needs to get out of his glass tower and see what it is like operating a small skip company. We are not hugely profitable with capacity to absorb 2,460% increase in 30% of the waste we dispose of!

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  • We have a major problem in this country in that the volume of recyclate produced often exceeds the reprocessing capacity, resulting in waste going overseas, which has become acceptable. However, solid based fines and subsoils have no such options, no prospect of a soils protocol on the horizon, a lack of tipping sites other than landfill and a permitting system that only favours large recovery schemes for infilling/ restoring land with soil. Joined up thinking is needed urgently.

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