A guide to the UK landfill tax

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The year 2016 marks the 20th anniversary of the Landfill Tax in the UK, introduced in 1996 by then Environment Secretary John Gummer who once famously fed his daughter a burger to prove that UK beef was safe to eat in one of the more bizarre publicity stunts of political history.

The Landfill Tax serves a single purpose, that being to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill sites and to encourage recycling. While it has been blamed down the years for the increase in fly-tipping which costs local authorities tens of millions of pounds to address every year, it is widely regarded as being an effective means of persuading industry to rethink waste management strategies.

Charged as a gate fee, the Landfill Tax in the majority of the UK rose to £82.60 per tonne in the standard rate from April 2015, while the reduced rate is £2.60 per tonne. 2015 also marked the year that the Scottish government became responsible for levying its own Landfill Tax rates, and have set their tax at the same rate as England and Wales. However, Scotland says that that the credit rate for landfill operators contributing towards the Scottish Landfill Communities Fund will be 10% higher than the UK rate for the first three years of the Scottish Tax.

How it works: A business has to pay tax on top of its normal landfill fees if it gets rid of waste using landfill sites. The tax is charged by weight, with the lower rate being “inactive waste” such as rocks and soil. Everything else is processed at the higher rate, but there are exemptions. According to the Gov.uk website, there is no Landfill Tax on dredging activities, quarrying and mining, pet cemeteries, inactive waste used for filling quarries. Gov.uk also says tax credits are available when sending waste from landfill to be recycled, incinerated or reused.

Filling quarries is one of the preferred routes for avoiding landfill, and forms part of the landscaping part of a quarrying project once the site has been exhausted.
The tax exists as a means to force companies to consider alternative routes for waste, rather than as a means to raise revenue for central government. As such, it should become as matter of pride for waste management companies to help their customers pay as little as possible through legal means.

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