Written evidence submitted by the Nappy
of the goals of the Government's environmental policy should be
to encourage a reduction in the amount of waste sent to landfill,
and an overall reduction in levels of waste produced. Landfill
tax, including the increase included in Budget 2011, helps to
achieve this goal but is not enough on its own.
could be improved in a number of ways including considering the
communication of green taxes, the consideration on individual
initiatives to improve waste management, and the consideration
of further taxes on waste producing products.
aim of Government action, including on green taxes, should be
to encourage the best environmental behaviour, not simply behaviour
which is slightly better than the worst behaviour.
1. The Nappy Alliance is the trade body for the re-usable
nappies industry. It was set up in 2003 by independent providers
and distributors of re-usable nappies to promote awareness of
the key benefits of re-usable nappies, which include waste reduction,
improved well being for babies and significant cost savings for
parents and local government.
2. Re-usable, or real, nappies are nappies that are
washed and re-used, reducing both waste and cost. A recent Mintel
report found that 5% of parents chose re-usable nappies.
Given the waste reduction that can be achieved through the use
of re-usable nappies this means there is a lot of scope to reduce
the amount of household waste produced by increasing the use of
re-usable nappies. This also has financial implications for local
authorities: figures show that if a 10% conversion rate from disposable
nappies to re-usable nappies were achieved across the UK, this
would equate to Local Authority savings of up to £9.2 million
3. This submission to the Environmental Audit Committee
focuses on the impact of environmental taxes included in Budget
2011, particularly landfill tax, in encouraging the minimisation
of waste. It also examines whether there is potential to further
encourage environmentally friendly behaviour, for example through
taxes on disposable products.
The benefits of re-usable nappies
4. Re-usable nappies have many benefits over disposable
Costs to local authorities: waste collection and disposal
is a significant cost burden on local authorities, who spend approximately
£22 billion per year on this in England,
according to figures from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance
and Accountancy. Waste reduction, therefore, offers an excellent
opportunity for cost savings in local government. This, again,
means prioritising waste minimisation and re-use, as the less
waste is produced, the less it will cost to manage. If a 10% conversion
rate was achieved across the UK, figures show that this would
equate to local authority savings of around £10 million per
Environmental protection: Using re-usable nappies, as opposed
to disposable nappies, can have a significant positive impact
on the environment by reducing the amount we throw away. Nearly
three billion disposable nappies are thrown away every year -
around eight million per day - making up almost 4% of all household
waste, which adds to the UK's landfill site problems.
There are a number of problems with relying on landfill to dispose
of waste: it represents an excessive use of land and is a potential
source of water pollution; landfill produces environmentally harmful
greenhouse gases and accounts for 38% of total methane emissions,
and, according to the Environment Agency, the decomposition timescale
for some of the materials and chemicals used in disposable nappies
is more than 500 years.
Re-usable nappies can have a much wider positive environmental
impact, as shown in the Environment Agency's 2008 revision of
their Life Cycle Analysis Report on Nappies. The report showed
that re-usable nappies can be up to around 40% better for the
environment than disposable nappies.
Climate Change: The fact that re-usable nappies can reduce
the amount of material which is put into landfill also has positive
effects in helping to reduce climate change due to the reduction
in the amount of methane produced.
Compliance with EU legislation: Not only are re-usable
nappies more environmentally friendly, they are also aligned with
the priorities of the revised EU Waste Framework Directive - the
document which sets the ground rules for waste management across
At the heart of the Directive is the waste hierarchy, which the
provisions of the Directive state should act as a priority order
in waste prevention, legislation and policy. The hierarchy includes
five priority levels:
recovery - including energy recovery
The waste hierarchy calls for waste prevention to be the top priority
of Government policy and legislation, with preparing for re-use
the second priority. Re-usable nappies prevent waste and are re-usedthey
can even be kept and used for future children or bought second
handthe two top priorities for waste management. In contrast,
disposable nappies are poor fuel for incineration and are therefore
mainly disposed of, the last of the options in the hierarchy.
Costs to parents: Re-usable nappies can save parents up to
£600 per child
compared to disposable nappies. The savings per child can be even
greater if the nappies are re-used for a second child.
Does Budget 2011 further the Government's green
14. Budget 2011 is partially supportive of the Government's
environmental objectives (and European obligations) in terms of
providing an incentive to reduce the amount of waste which is
sent to landfill. The budget confirmed that the Government will
increase the standard rate of landfill tax by £8 per tonne
to £64 per tonne on 1 April 2012, as originally announced
in June 2010. This will continue until at least 2014-15, by which
point the cost will have reached £80 per tonne. This clearly
provides an incentive to local authorities to reduce the level
of waste which is sent to landfill, whether through waste prevention,
increased recycling, or greater use of methods such as anaerobic
15. However, while landfill tax provides a disincentive
to send waste to landfill, it does not make any distinction between
activities at different levels of the waste hierarchy above landfill.
In terms of avoiding landfill tax, the financial benefits to councils
are the same whatever they do to decrease waste to landfill. Our
concern is that there is too high a focus on activities such as
recycling, rather than the prevention of waste in the first place.
As mentioned above, waste prevention should be the highest priority
in waste management, from a legal, financial and environmental
point of view, yet it is often neglected in favour of recycling
- whether this is through compulsory recycling schemes, such as
in the London Borough of Barnet, or recycling incentive schemes,
such as in Windsor and Maidenhead. The latter can actually actively
discourage waste prevention, as incentives are provided on the
basis of the volume of waste recycled.
16. Furthermore, waste prevention tends to be neglected
in the general political and media debate around waste management,
with recycling once again prioritised as the main issue.
17. So while the increase in landfill tax goes some
way to encouraging environmentally friendly behaviours, it does
not encourage the most environmentally friendly behaviours.
Factors which need to be considered when designing
18. The increase in landfill tax places the increased
financial burden for disposing of waste on local authorities,
rather than on the individuals who are responsible for generating
household waste. Sending increased waste to landfill does obviously
have implications for council budgets, and therefore on council
tax bills and the ability of local authorities to provide other
services. However, this is not always communicated to residents,
who may not understand why they are being asked to prevent waste
or recycle more, and may see this activity as unnecessary interference
in their home life. Greater efforts need to be made by local authorities
to communicate to local residents about the reasons why certain
policies may be desirable, and how they are likely to be beneficial
to the local area.
19. In addition to this, environmental taxes could
be designed in a way which better reflects the impact of individual
choices on the environment. As an example, there could be a one
pence tax on product which produce a high level of waste, such
as disposable nappies, especially where a re-usable alternative
exists. As well as raising money which could be invested in waste
prevention initiatives, this would also increase the financial
attractiveness of re-usable alternatives. Similar approaches have
proven very effective in other countries to encourage the use
of re-usable shopping bags instead of plastic bags, for example.
This would also make people more aware of their environmental
choices, and place the financial burden of disposing of waste
on those producing the waste, in line with the principle of "the
20. While the environmental taxes in the budget,
particularly landfill tax, are helpful in nudging environmental
policy in the right direction, there is more that could be done
to encourage behaviors such as waste reduction. We would make
the following recommendations for the Committee to consider:
designing green taxes, the Government should consider how they
can encourage the best environmental behaviour, not simply reduce
the worst behaviour.
and local authorities should consider how they communicate with
people about the reasons why green taxes have been introduced,
so that they are better understood and more widely supported.
should consider a one pence tax on waste producing products, particularly
where a waste minimising alternative is available.
19 April 2011
11 Mintel, Nappies and Baby Wipes UK, August 2010 Back
Finance and General Statistics 2008-09 Back
According to figures from "What Mums Really Want", commissioned
by Lifecycle Marketing, publishers of Emma's Diary, and conducted
by independent research company Mum'sViews. Back