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Do you pay to have green waste collected?

Garden green waste

My green waste bag is collected for free each and every week. I thought that was the norm, but it appears it’s a different story for many in the UK. Some people are now paying extra to have their green waste taken away.

According our latest research, around a quarter of people have to pay an extra charge on top of their council tax to get their green waste taken away.

Our figures are broadly in line with the latest figures from Wrap (Waste & Resources Action Programme) from 2011/12, where 31% of households in England and 27% in Wales paid to have garden waste collected, compared with no charges in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

The services offered by councils differ around the country: some put out bags, others bins; some pay an annual fee ranging from £15 to £90, others pay per collection. Some councils sell the composted green waste back to residents for use as a mulch or soil improver.

While most people appear to be happy with their collection service, some say that it’s not regular enough or that it doesn’t collect all of their waste. Of those who have to pay, some are not happy with the extra charge – several people told us that they think it should be included in their council tax bill.

Only about half of Which? members who have to pay for the service choose to do so. The rest of them compost the green waste at home or take it to a local recycling centre. A handful even admit that they put green waste in their ordinary rubbish bin!

Paying extra to get rid of gardening waste

Our members’ views are echoed by my colleagues in the Which? Gardening office. Our editor, Ceri Thomas, and our senior researcher, Adelaide Gray, both live in the same borough in Buckinghamshire and are charged £28 a year to have their green waste taken away.

Ceri has chosen not pay the charge, preferring to compost at home. She then takes the excess to her local recycling centre. On the other hand, Adelaide has opted to pay for the service. Despite having two compost heaps, she generates more green waste than she can handle and would rather it was taken away. She’s also reluctant to put grass clippings that have been treated with a weed and feed into her compost bins. And rightly so, they contain weedkillers and should not be put in the compost bin for at least six months.

Clearly many councils are having to make tough decisions about which services they can run. And arguably it’s greener to compost at home than to send a fleet of vehicles to collect green waste. But not everyone has space for a bin or heap, and often the garden generates too much green waste anyway. So is charging to take it away really the answer?

Anthony says:
14 June 2013

In my council (Tandridge) you pay £48.50 a year per wheelie bin for 25 fortnightly collections of green garden waste, and can have up to 6 bins. The service is so pupular that there is now a waiting list to join in.

I have no objection to paying (I will pay either way even if its hidden in the council tax). Sometimes the knowledge that I’ve paid is the only thing that gets me out in the garden to tidy up / generate some waste, particularly as the scheme runs all year. And as for buying the compost back, that’s the last thing I want – the plants grow quite fast enough as it is!

Don Vanhegan says:
14 June 2013

I live in the Forest of Dean and the district council charges £26 p.a. for providing a green wheelie-bin and collecting the garden waste fortnightly. They then make the collections into soil conditioner and sell it at £3.50 a bag, so, providing you pay, you get your own waste back!!


Like Victoria above I live in Sheffield and 3 or 4 years ago the council introduced a green bin scheme for part of the city. It operated fortnightly in the summer and monthly in the winter. It was a fantastic help especially for bigger items – apart from anything else our car didn’t get so messy as we took green waste for recycling. This has now been stopped because of cuts and we declined to pay over £50 pa for fortnightly collections. We do compost but the big waste now just goes for incineration in the black bin. Even if we decided to recycle, the queues at the recycling centres waste more green energy than they would create. A real shame.

Yes we pay £33.00 a year for a forthnightly collection, which is exorbitant for the amount realised but it does save messing the car up in taking garden rubbish to the tip.

David Hill says:
14 June 2013

In Northumberland it costs £20 per year for a fortnightly collection between April and October. I do not use this service some of my garden waste I take to the tip the rest goes in the normal waste bin. £20 isn’t a huge amount but I object on the basis I pay enough in council tax and we are lucky if our grass is cut once a month, and then it is usually just left to blow all over the road! Councils want to get their act together like the rest of us have to and stop wasting money as most of them do.

Chrysalis says:
14 June 2013

We have a green wheelie bin for garden waste, collected every two weeks. Our local council – Mid-Sussesx District Council charges £60 per year for this service!

Bob Mullineaux says:
15 June 2013

The introduction of charges for some Green Waste bins by the Huntingdonshire District Council due to start on 1st July 2013 has been likened to the Poll Tax with Councillors receiving more mail than on any other subject since they have been in office.

Councillors failed to consult the electorate before announcing the introduction of the charges.

My understanding is:

1 that Councils must hold a Referendum if they wish to raise taxes above 2%

2 that the Government has asked Councils:
A. not to increase taxes in 2013
B. to make it easier to recycle
C. to encourage reward schemes to increase recycling.

Some Councils have raised taxes by 1.9%, made it harder to recycle by introducing recycle bin charges and made no effort to encourage reward schemes to increase recycling. Charges apparently are not taxes therefore are not part of the 2% Referendum requirement.

Are Councillors and officers deliberately avoiding the electorate by not listening before voting on tax rises, new charges and recycling? Is this called tax avoidance or tax evasion? I am not sure which.

richard says:
15 June 2013

Here in my Inner London Borough – everything is free – council tax remains the same – though a phone call is required for garden waste – the same for large house items – The only thing not collected at all is building debris – In all an excellent service – The only complaint is often orange recycling bins are not returned to their original position and left in the street.

Tim says:
26 June 2013

We are (will shortly when wheelie bins come in) be charged. We only ever put problem (rooty) weeds in the bin and will not use the service. a third wheelie bin would be a pain. Opinion: PRO: in time of austerity, it is only fair that only users of the service should pay. CON: charging in an incentive for people to put garden waste in the landfill bin.

elizabeth says:
27 June 2013

I live in Oxfordshire and pay around £40 a year for a brown bin. We compost but I use the brown bin to take away invasive weeds and stuff that won’t compost or we can’t chip. Seems fair to charge as most households would not use this service.

Denys South Bucks says:
28 June 2013

Dear Gardening Which,

You are without doubt my favourite read each month, and it is largely old man’s laziness which obstructs my intention to write

on the odd -often very odd -occasion, but the question of green waste collections is a constant source of rage! As a dedicated

recycler one becomes increasingly angry at the attitude of my local Chiltern District Council. Time was when we had our green bin

for all green garden and food waste. This went to a metal recovery and recycler in Milton Keynes. We could then buy it back at

£2.50 a bag from our local centre. The whole operation then moved to a purpose-built site near High Wycombe. Up to 5 or 6 years

ago we could still buy it back at High Heavens[the site] using our own containers, but a recent visit revealed that this was no longer

the case. ‘No way mate. All sold to a commercial firm!’

So why the blazes should this household pay this penny pinching clan for collecting the raw material for part of their business?

We shall go on composting the bulk of our green waste and hang onto the rest till we have enough to drop off at the tip on our

monthly trip to the supermarket.

Gary Sunbeam says:
1 July 2013

In Manchester, where I live, the Garden & Food wheelie bin is green, 240 liters’ big, and is
emptied weekly. [Completely unnecessary; especially if u tiny yr waste. To stop its contents getting soggy-boggy from condensed water from the decomposition: lift its lid with a piece of 2cms x 1.5 cms batten, holding it down with a half-brick. Holding down all wheelie-bins’ lids with a half-brick is a good idea: against wind, gulls, foxes, dogs, cats, rats, and children.]
The Non-Recyclable bin, of dark gray, is also 240 liters’ big, and is emptied fortnightly.
The Paper & Cardboard bin is blue, of only 140 liters, and is emptied fortnightly, in the
Non-Recyclable’s space.
The Plastic bottles-Glass-Aluminum-Iron cans bin, brown and of 140 liters’ capacity, is also only emptied fortnightly; with the Paper. Plastic bottles are easily squeezed flat if soft from being filled with hot water. Cans are quite-easily flattened beneath a shod foot. Here, they don’t mind if u shatter the glass to fit more in.
So far as I can see, this is all done as part of the Council’s ordinary business. I can’t recall anything about paying extra for this or that.

Jenny Brickman says:
2 July 2013

I live in Wimbledon, which is in the borough of Merton. We have to pay £50 per annum for one wheelie bin which is emptied every fortnight efficiently. This service stops for 4-6 weeks during the Christmas period. As I am elderly and cannot take any excess garden waste to the local dump, I am obliged to have a second bin, at another £50. Although this is a useful service, I feel that, as it is on top of a high council tax, there should be a discount for pensioners, if it is going to be a paid service.

John Newcombe says:
5 July 2013

Dear which?

We pay £30pa for a separate garden waste bin. We can share this neighbours, but cannot share any other bins. We can have another bin if we want (for another 30 quid per year). I do think this is wrong if they are able to sell it back as compost!

I want to be able to compost my own garden and kitchen waste but not sure how to:
– does grass take a long time to compost, meaning I’m stuck when it’s full after a garden spring clean?
– am I right in saying that cooked food cannot go in there?
– is it true that urine helps to break down the compost?


John Newcombe

Sarah Dean says:
14 July 2013

We do some composting, but have to avoid seedheads and a lot of thicker stuff. There is no green waste collection operated in East Devon by the Council, so we have to take it all to the tip. The Council work with a community recycling organisation – Otter Rotters – in many parts of the district, which is paid for as you use it, but Otter Rotters only managed to run for one Summer season in Exmouth in 2011 and haven’t been able to get enough people to get going again here since – at least, I assume so – their communciation is very poor.

We pay £28 per year for a weekly collection from a large green bag supplied by the council. We compost as much as possible but use the bags for woody waste and perennial weeds and manage to fill the bag most weeks.We could take the waste to the council tip ourselves but would not bother each week and the bag saves the boot of the car from errant twigs and leaves which are a pain to clear up. There is a rumour that the charge will increase to £30 and the collection reduce to fortnightly which would be a huge increase for a halved service.

Carole says:
25 July 2013

East Dorset DC introduced a £35.00pa charge for providing a wheelie bin and fornightly collection of garden waste. I’m elderly and cannot take any excess garden waste to the local tip. I object to paying for this service on the basis that I pay enough in Council Tax etc.

Jenny Wistreich says:
31 July 2013

How lucky people are to have their green waste collected by the council. I have to pay £15 (plus £5 sack hire) to a private company to remove it.

Don’t all councils have the same recycling targets to hit, along with a reduction in land fill usage ? I think that’s the only reason many councils offer this extra paid for service.

Andrew says:
8 August 2013

Here in Hinckley the Borough Council appears to buck the trend. For some years now the Council has supplied a brown wheelie bin for garden waste with a fortnightly collection all free of charge. They also supply two other wheelie bins: one for paper, cardboard and all packaging materials; and the third for all other waste, both bins being emptied in alternate weeks to the brown bin collection. Items for the brown bin include grass cuttings, tree prunings, flowers, plants, hedge clippings, leaves, bark, twigs, small branches and annual weeds. Items not accepted include: soil, stones, broken tools, chemicals, plastics, annimal bedding or waste, food waste, Japanese knotweed or Giant hogweed. However our household has always composted as much as we can