Why we all have to share this burden

WASTE not, want not. It is an age-old adage but one that has resonance in our environmentally conscious era, in which we seek not to waste anything in order not to be found wanting on the environment.

So, the Scottish Government's targets of sending 5 per cent of municipal waste to landfill by 2025, recycling or composting 70 per cent of it and putting a 25 per cent cap on the waste burned to produce energy is ambitious but welcome. However, a report out yesterday shows this bold commitment comes at a cost. To meet European and Scottish Government objectives, no less than 6.5 billion will need to be spent over the next 15 years.

Confronted with this level of expenditure, one might be tempted to pursue a more gradualist green agenda, but doing so would cost even more – 2.3bn above current expenditure, as councils paid hefty environmental fines for using landfill sites.

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What to do? We could move away from ending landfill and try somehow to avoid paying the fines, or pay the price for our inactivity, abrogating our responsibilities to our environment. We could, but we should not.

The only sensible solution is for the government to share the financial burden, unwelcome though it is, between the public sector, private firms and households, a move that might, in the long term, provide an incentive to produce less waste in the first place.