Should your local council collect garden waste for free?
PUBLISHED: 14:58 23 March 2019 | UPDATED: 15:03 23 March 2019
A turf war has broken out between the local councils and the Government over whether garden waste should be collected for free.
Free collection of garden waste is being considered by the Government - but councils are insisting any cost involved in providing it must be “fully funded”.
A new waste strategy being considered by the Goverment is promising to consult on whether households with gardens should have access to free collections for garden waste, such as grass cuttings, twigs, plant and hedge clippings.
Six of Suffolk’s seven district councils currently charge while two of the five district councils in north Essex also do - making it far from a level playing field for residents.
But the Local Government Association (LGA) said any changes to waste services that put more of a cost burden on councils already under huge financial pressure need to be fully funded.
Composting garden waste could cut carbon emissions, avoid landfill costs and generate extra revenue from producing compost, the government strategy says.
Martin Tett, environment spokesman for the LGA, said: “Some councils were able to provide free garden waste services when they were first introduced but are now having to charge to reflect the growing cost of providing a collection service.
“Money from garden waste collection charges goes back into maintaining the service.”
Mr Tett added: “Any changes to waste services and additional cost burdens on councils, who are already under enormous financial pressure, need to be fully funded.”
He also said councils will have lost almost 60p out of every £1 between 2010 and 2020, and it was “vital” the forthcoming Government spending review fully funded the local services communities relied on.
In February this year, Babergh District councillors were at loggerheads over the potential scrapping of the fees, with Labour councillor Luke Cresswell describing the charge as a “tax” on people for doing the right thing.
Babergh Conservative councillor John Ward has previously argued charges for collection went towards “maintaining a balanced budget”.
Six of Suffolk’s seven district councils currently charge to empty brown bins or collect garden waste - only Ipswich Borough Council offers it for free. Two thirds of councils in England charge for the service too, according to a survey published by the Press Association.
The service is free in Cambridge and three nearby Essex districts, Colchester, Chelmsford and Braintree.
Maldon charges £46, Tendring charges £50, and all three Norfolk authorities charge at least £48.
The warning comes as research by the Press Association shows that, of 326 English councils which pick up rubbish and recycling from homes, 212 of them (65%) charge for a garden waste collection service.
Most of those who charge ask for an annual subscription for picking up a garden waste bin or bags, with yearly costs averaging around £46, the research shows.
A spokesman for the Environment Department said: “Free garden waste collections would not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions through less garden waste being sent to landfill, but would also see more waste composted, which is cheaper for local authorities than landfill disposal.
“Subject to consultation, we intend to have free garden waste collections in place from 2023, with councils being funded appropriately to deliver this.”
Households in many areas also face a one-off signing up fee or the initial cost of purchasing a bin, and further payments for more than one bin.
But many councils offer cheaper collection for smaller containers or bags, or discounts for online payment, direct debits or for some residents depending on their circumstances.
Despite the charges, councils across England say they have thousands of households signed up - and some even have fully subscribed services.