Householders could be paid to recycle under plans outlined by the Conservatives.
Shadow Chancellor George Osborne said the innovative approach was working in the US, where households in hundreds of communities are being paid up to $50 (£25) a month to recycle.
He said he wanted to see the same policy rolled out across the UK to make it “pay to go green” in this country.
Mr Osborne said the Government’s approach of using the threat of fines to force people to recycle, was “old-fashioned” and unpopular with the public. And he said it did not work, as it encouraged irresponsible behaviour such as flytipping and back-yard burning.
The shadow Chancellor said: “Right now, the UK has one of the lowest recycling rates in Europe. The Government’s approach is an old-fashioned one: use the threat of fines and punitive taxation to force people to recycle.
“We’ve all seen how unpopular this heavy-handed approach has been with the public. Instead of using sticks we can use carrots. Instead of punitive taxes, we can use financial incentives.”
In the US, recycling companies save local authorities money by reducing their landfill - which is taxed as it is in the UK - and use the cash to pay householders to recycle.
The scheme has increased the amount of waste being recycled by more than 200 per cent in some communities, the shadow Chancellor said. And he said: “There is also an equity dimension. While the poorest households were previously the least likely to recycle, as soon as they started receiving a financial incentive for recycling, they typically become amongst the most likely to recycle.”
Mr Osborne is outlining the plans as part of a speech to environmental think tank Green Alliance tonight on the Tories’ environmental policies.
Green Alliance’s waste expert Hannah Hislop said the proposed scheme was an innovative one and the think tank was “delighted” it could be tested in the UK.
But she said: “Other approaches must be tried too, including the Government’s proposals to reward recyclers and charge more to those that do not recycle.
“The ultimate aim is to create less waste in the first place, rather than reward people for generating it.”