The key system in the UK's drive towards meeting Landfill Directive targets during the next 15 years kicked off last month. With so much riding on the Landfill Allowing Trading Scheme (LATS), it was inevitable that strong opinions were voiced on it right up to its launch day.
Reaction to the scheme - which gives councils tradable limits of household waste they can put in the ground - has been mixed. Critics claim it will lead to a rise in incineration or cost councils heavily in fines, while supporters insist it is an innovative and flexible tool that will deliver results.
One man that has been on both sides of the rather sharp LATS fence is Andy Doran. Former chairman of the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC), he is now head of local authority waste performance at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). We asked him what he thought about it all.
What was the general feedback you were getting from councils about LATS when you were at LARAC?
I think there was some concern among local authorities about how the scheme would work in practice and whether it was needed, along with all the other pressures to improve their waste management performance.
I also heard more positively from some authorities, who thought that it was an innovative and exciting policy tool that could allow them to work creatively with public, community and private sector partners to deliver shared waste management objectives.
How has the launch of the scheme compared with your expectations?
I joined DEFRA six weeks before the launch date of April 1, and was immediately impressed by the professionalism of my colleagues within DEFRA and the support of local government colleagues. It was very satisfying to see the electronic register go live on schedule on the DEFRA website on April 1.
How much trading/banking/ borrowing do you expect to see this year?
I don't think it's appropriate for me to speculate. Clearly the landfill allowances that authorities have predicate that a certain amount of activity will take place, which waste disposal authorities can choose to meet either through physical diversion of biodegradable municipal waste or through the mechanisms of trading, banking or borrowing allowances.
Do you think many councils will be fined this year? How much of a deterrent is the £150 per tonne fine?
For the trading scheme to operate efficiently, it is necessary for there to be a sufficient disincentive to authorities to landfill more waste than they are permitted to.
We recently published guidance on the Secretary of State's powers to waive penalties within LATS, and people will be able to see that the penalties are a serious disincentive - one which I think authorities are taking seriously.
I hope all authorities can see the advantages of engaging in LATS seriously and, therefore, none will be liable to a penalty under the scheme.
What is the biggest obstacle in the way of LATS delivering Landfill Directive targets in 2010 and 2020?
I think LATS presents lots of mental challenges because it is the first scheme of its type for local authorities anywhere in the world. But the only barrier of real substance is the ability of all stake- holders - public, private, community and householder - to be of one voice in what they want to see done with their waste.
What do you make of recent criticism of the lack of