How much does it cost to recycle materials in the UK?

Written by stephen byron cooper Google
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How much does it cost to recycle materials in the UK?
Tipping costs you more than recycling. (George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Despite best intentions, sometimes being conscientious and environmentally friendly may seem not worth your while. You wouldn’t be willing to cut back on the kids’ meals in order to be able to afford to implement household waste recycling. It is natural to want to know how much recycling costs the average household, how much the tax payer has to fork out and whether increasing recycling would increase household costs. You need to know the range of options available to you and the cost of each before you make an informed decision on recycling.

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Waste disposal is the responsibility of your county council in the UK and Wales, of the region in Scotland and in Northern Ireland the district councils collect and dispose of waste. Some areas of England, Wales and Scotland have unitary councils and these bodies are responsible for waste disposal within their boundaries. The cost of waste disposal and any related recycling projects come directly from your council’s budget.


The UK government budgeted £4 billion in the 2013/2014 financial year to fund grants to local councils for recycling infrastructure projects. This shows how the costs of recycling can be shared through the different strata of government. As a UK tax payer, the cost to you of recycling was £4 billion in 2013. However, the finance of national government strategy is a little more complicated. The government raises this money through a landfill tax levied on local councils. In 2013/2014 local authorities had to pay the government £72 for every tonne of waste they tipped on landfill sites. Apart from the block grant, local government has nowhere to raise this money other than from you, the council tax payer, or business owner.

Cost play off

The cost of not implementing a recycling policy causes local authorities to raise local taxes and cut other services. The cost of investing in recycling initiatives is largely met by national government. In local politics, the cost incentives clearly encourage a push towards recycling.


Before recycling became a policy the poor and indigent would scour tips for scrap that they could reuse or sell. This practice is called “tatting.” Tatters maintained this practice for generations and it became a family business.

Household waste centres

Other cost benefits accrue from recycling. For example, Nottinghamshire County Council Waste Disposal services exploited the long standing tradition of tatting. They built Household Waste Centres where the general public could take recyclable goods and dispose of them for free. Given the ease of acquiring goods through these centres, tatters bid for the right to manage them, raising funds for the council and removing the need to pay staff to sort recyclable goods. The introduction of the landfill tax made tatting more essential for any local authority and the household recycling centre is now the main focus of local government waste disposal strategy.


Local councils receive grants to build Household Waste Centres, they receive rent from the operators and they need pay nothing for the labour involved. Recycling reduces the fines the council has to pay to dump waste on landfill sites. The cost of those special bins the council provides for your small regular recyclables are covered by the government.

Your costs

There is no charge to the public for taking recyclable goods to a Waste Management Centre. So this form of recycling costs you nothing, it reduces the council's costs and so enables them to reduce your council tax. If you don’t have transport you can call the local council’s waste disposal hotline and get your large recyclables taken away for a fee. If you are throwing away unwanted furniture or appliances a local reuse group will take them away for free. Therefore, the cost of recycling costs you little to nothing, but the cost of not recycling is higher council tax and reduced local services.

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