August 14, 2008
Fly-Tip of the Iceberg ; ‘Green Tax’ Helping Environmental Projects, but There is a Downside LANDFILL Tax May Be Helping Fund Eco Projects in the Community – but Spiralling Costs Are Putting Firms Under Pressure With Illegal Fly- Tipping, the Unfortunate
By KELLEY PRICE
LANDFILL tax rises show no signs of slowing and Teesside firms are feeling the pinch.But a growing number of environmental projects are striking gold on the back of the Government's first green tax on dumping waste.
Every year a small fortune is given away to projects designed to improve those communities living with landfill sites on their doorsteps, under the Landfill Tax Credits scheme.
The tax, which hit in 1996, was an attempt to encourage businesses to find greener ways of disposing of their commercial waste.
To compensate, landfill operators can channel up to 6.6% of their tax liability into worthwhile projects, claiming 90% of the donation as a tax credit in the process.
One of the bodies set up to distribute the funds is Impetus Environmental Trust (IET), an independent non-profit-making company acting on behalf of Impetus Waste Management.
Founded in the same year the tax was introduced, IET has given pounds 1.5m to more than 60 projects within the obligatory 10-mile radius of IBM's landfill sites at Teesport and Billingham.
Trust chairman, Peter Baker, said: "Our projects are diverse but essentially they are all environmental. We encourage smaller groups who would not think of approaching us."
North Billingham Residents Association has been one of the most successful applicants so far - pounds 100,000 was donated for improvements at Cowbridge Beck.
The project, due for completion in the spring, is improving the wildlife habitats of species including herons, badgers and the endangered water vole.
Working hand in hand with the Tees Valley Wildlife Trust and the National Rivers Authority, project organisers North Billingham Residents Association are also providing landscaping, a footpath and wooden footbridge for users.
A grant of pounds 125,260 has also been secured by the Friends of Harewood Pleasure Gardens for extensive tree works, ecological improvements and diversification of the wetland structure at the site in Thornaby.
Other projects IEM has helped, under the eagle eye of Government regulator Entrust, include:
A pounds 90,000 sensory garden, maze and water feature for the charity Daisy Chain;
pounds 80,000 to transform wasteland at Stockton's John Whitehead Park into a sensory garden;
Two new boats worth pounds 27,000 for Stockton-based Tees Rowing Club;
pounds 10,000 for a communal garden, walkways plants and seating at Trinity Mews Church in Stockton;
pounds 110,000 towards Romano Park in Ingleby Barwick;
Communal garden at Monmouth Road, Eston, pounds 31,270 for new pathways, cycleways and entranceways at Kirkleatham Woods
Maureen Bowler, of North Billingham Residents Association, helped drive the Cowbridge Beck scheme.
She said: "The area is a real asset now, we've had a fantastic response from users. It was marvellous to get such a large amount from IET."
Community projects might be benefitting froom landfill, but the price hike causes its own set of problems.
Illegal fly-tipping is an unfortunate symptom of the spiralling cost of waste dumping, as some smaller businesses either struggle or refuse to pay.
Authorities are doing their bit - Stockton Council successfully prosecuted a man who illegally dumped two tonnes of commercial waste on a recreation ground in Portrack recently.
Councillor Jennie Beaumont, Stockton Council's cabinet member for the environment, said: "There really is no excuse for anyone to illegally dump waste and the council operates a zero tolerance policy on fly tipping. Not only does it make the borough look dirty and unattractive, it can also be dangerous for both residents and the local wildlife."
From April 2007 to March 2008 the council cleaned up 2,823 tonnes of fly-tipped waste, 929 tonnes less than the 3,752 tonnes in the previous year.
Redcar and Cleveland Council operates trade waste collections and both authorities work closely with firms to help reduce waste.
The National Farmers' Union has called for some of the landfill tax credit funds to be re-directed towards tackling the problem of illegal fly-tipping on farmland.
Massive costs can be incurred by farmers whose responsibility it is to remove waste dumped on their land - particularly if it is hazardous.
One farmer at Stokesley found large quantities of rubbish on his land, from phone directories to propane cylinders and old tyres.
Laurie Norris, NFU's North-east environment adviser, said Teesside's rural fringes had become a favourite target for unlawful tipping by their industrial neighbours.
She said: "More unscrupulous companies are refusing to pay the higher landfill taxes and the situation will only worsen with the current economic climate.
"There is a problem on Teesside. Rural areas next to heavy industry are the first port of call for fly-tippers of commercial, hazardous or household waste.
"Community projects are worthwhile, but we would like to see more resources put into targeting urban fringe areas. A large percentage of the increased landfill tax should be going towards tackling fly- tipping."
KELLEY PRICE has been appointed as the new Environment Reporter on the Gazette's business team. You can contact Kelley on 01642 234270 or send an email to [email protected]
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