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Is your council right to charge for garden waste collection?

Garden waste in basket

Like many others I spent a good deal of the bank holiday weekend out in my garden digging, pruning and sewing. But it was a nasty shock to find out that I now have to pay my council to collect all of my garden waste.

I have a bijoux urban garden, mostly decked, but even this small oasis managed to produce a large bag of clippings, beyond the capacity of my modest compost heap.

When I produced a similar green pile last summer, all I needed to do was fill in a form online through my local council’s website and leave the bag on the kerb on an allocated day. On my return from work I would find the waste gone and an empty bag awaiting my next round of gardening.

Dig deep into your pockets

This year, however, things have changed. To get my council to remove and recycle my garden waste I’ll need to pay an annual fee of £25 for a garden waste permit.

Initially, I was outraged. I already pay a hefty council tax bill, so £25 seems like a lot to pay for what will, in practice, only be about two or three bags across the year. But, on reflection, I can see both sides of the argument.

When I rang my council to find out more, I was told that it wasn’t alone in the charges – apparently loads of councils now charge for green waste collection with budget cuts seemingly the cause.

Money doesn’t grow on trees

Times are indeed hard and not everyone has a garden, so why should they foot the bill for my garden waste? Yet with each bag costing about £10 for occasional gardeners like me, the temptation to fly-tip or disguise the green waste among normal rubbish is high.

Perhaps a less one-size-fits-all approach would work better? Larger houses (and thus with bigger gardens) could be charged more for garden waste collection, meaning people with smaller gardens, like me, wouldn’t feel so hard done by.

Then again, such a cost-banding system could make councils shoot themselves in the foot with policy – maybe I should just wake up and smell the garden cuts? Does your council charge to collect your garden waste?

kenny pickles says:
22 April 2015

I ave same problem got told off for burning garden waste so I ask counciler our local one and he said you are in the law to throw all leaves back over garden fence if all the trees are in next doors garden which they are he as 10 large trees and yes leaves end up in our garden talking here about 30 black bags full every year so why should I pay for is waste yours ken

My council ‘Lichfield’ is bringing in a £36 pa charge in 2018. I pay enough council tax as it is, so I won’t be paying. My grass cuttings will go in a plastic bag and dropped in my normal bin, so the council will be taking it away for free after all.

Why not compost them with other garden and food waste? It will be better than chucking them.

£36 a year is on the low side for kerbside garden waste collection; most councils in East Anglia are charging at least £40 [or £38 with direct debit] for this service. The smell of grass cuttings in your domestic refuse bin might give your game away, Joe. Doing what you say is not only breaking the law but harming the environment.

£36 a year is very cheap compared to some councils.

We all need to be more responsible with waste disposal and recycling for the future of our planet.

Lichfield council have a section on Home composting:

There is a link to getcomposting.com where you can order a subsidised composting bin from £17.98. If you get one of these, you will have the satisfaction of being a responsible recycler, and the benefit of adding goodness back into your garden.

I used Lichfield council postcode for prices

I agree with Alfa that we need to be more responsible about waste.

At present our council collects green waste without charge and provides biodegradable bags for food waste. These can be put in with the green waste or in a separate caddy. I’m not sure if it is wise to compost food waste other than vegetables because it can attract vermin. That might not be a problem for those with large gardens, who can compost waste at the bottom of the garden. I believe that it is essential to provide a ‘free’ service for collection of food waste and this will reduce the chance that it will be put into the bin with non-recyclable material.

Not all green waste will compost well, for example branches from trees and shrubs.

I bought a couple of these bins at a special rate for two at a local Gardens for Wildlife plant sale and advice event, one was for us and the other for a friend nearby so we split the cost. I can’t remember how much they were now but they’re excellent value.

GfW is a local organisation that promotes the garden as a natural habitat rather than a purely ornamental and manicured space. This involves the choice of plants, type of planting, the layout, and the provision of gaps and holes in the fencing.

Nature can take you by surprise sometimes though: I was on my knees trimming the edges of the front lawn with shears when I saw the ground suddenly move alongside me; it gave me quite a shock. I realised a mole was active right there and I sprang to my feet. This must have caused bad vibrations and I could see from the movement of the ground that the mole went back at a surprisingly fast pace. No molehills ensued so perhaps it has a memory of sites where it’s best not to go. Some neighbours have dozens of molehills in their lawns; we have none.

Getting back to grass cuttings for a moment, I find that it is best when putting them in the compost bin to mix in some scrunched-up low grade cardboard [like egg boxes] and newspaper to aerate the waste since wet or damp grass cuttings going in as a solid mass take much longer to break down. Plenty of worms are a sign of a good compost bin and eggshells are good for the worms apparently. For best results the bin should be in a sunny position, not hidden away in a shady corner.

We have a few anthills the size of molehills, and although there are moles in the area, they have left our garden alone. We do get frogs and toads hiding in long grass and other vegetation sometimes though.

Branches compost better when they have been shredded first. Even if they are not fully rotted down, they can still be added back to the garden.

We have always put tea bags on the compost heap and they do disintegrate eventually. But recently (was it on Which?) I was very surprised and dismayed to discover they have plastic (polypropylene) in them. Considering our seas our full of plastic, I don’t like to think we have been putting it back into the garden.

There is a petition to Unilever to remove all plastic from tea bags to ensure they are fully bio-degradable/compostable but it has only attracted 1105 signatures so far.

The sunny position will promote composing because the bugs grow faster and the enzymes they excrete will cause more rapid degradation of waste. If grass has been treated with weedkiller it’s best not to put it in the compost bin because the chemical residues will be toxic to the bugs and wee creatures that are working for us.

I would like to see an end to all plastic wrapping although I accept that is not realistic. We have a tall pedal bin that is exclusively used for the plastic and metallised foil that is used to enclose many food products, sometimes unnecessarily. This bin fills over the course of a week with the sort of material that cannot be recycled, does not compress, and is just a nuisance. I am sure more products could be safely enclosed in paper or cardboard.

I heard that one of the most difficult things to recycle is a Pringles container. We rarely have them but with a plastic cap, foil cover, metal rim and baseplate, separating the cardboard tube is beyond the capability of any machinery and too complicated and time-consuming for manual processing. All the individual elements are eminently recyclable but the whole lot goes to landfill or incineration. If there was a will to do it the manufacturers could come up with a uniform enclosure. Crisp packets too do not have to be made of metallised plastic – especially the big outer one that encloses six inner ones. It’s time to get serious with these companies that will not change their ideas and put the planet first.

I am pleased to see that lawn weed-killer containers do warn against composting any grass treated with the product for six months after application. The way some people spray it around that must mean never.

My approach is to put a pinch of weed & feed on weeds when they appear. It’s effective and means that a packet lasts a very long time. Some of the neighbours employ a local company to wage chemical warfare on their lawns, several times a year. 🙁

I agree. Weed and feed is an adequate and economical method of controlling lawn weeds. I have seen these chemical warfare people at work – you can’t walk on the grass for a long period after they have done their business because your shoes get covered in nasty brown residues which would spoil any indoor floor surfaces.

John – I agree that much more could be recycled but I don’t see this happening without intervention. I would be happy to sort out plastics according to their resin code (1 = PET, 2 = HDPE etc) and have always thought that it would be useful to teach kids to do this. Unfortunately, it’s pointless because many plastics are not recycled and will merely ‘contaminate’ the contents of the recycling bin.

When I moved home, I noticed that the bin for non-recyclable waste (green, for some strange reason) was small compared with the brown bin for green waste and the blue bin for recyclable waste. That’s fine for me, but I’m not sure how large families cope.

If weed and feed is done in the winter then it is not so bad I suppose. But it would harm the bees in the summer.

We have more weeds than grass on our lawns and the bees love it. We only mow half at a time so there is plenty of clover, trefoil and daisies left for them.

A weeding trowel can easily get up undesirable weeds like dandelions or milk thistles.

I’ve never wasted weedkiller on our lawns. If it’s green, it’s OK. Mow it regularly and nasty weeds don’t develop, but the clover does and attracts bees. Uncooked vegetable waste from the kitchen is what should go on the heap. I use a rotary mower to shred hedge clippings and the like to mix with grass to avoid a compacted mess, and turn it once, maybe twice, to reinvigorate the bacteria. A tiny garden can support a compost heap – about a yard square in a corner will work; no need for fancy bins and it’ll do your soil good.

I dig out deep-rooted weeds and it’s much easier if you keep on top of them. My soil is so sandy that many weeds pull out rather than break. I’m trying to improve the soil and the weeds are becoming more of a challenge to remove.

Take your garden waste and tell your local councillor here is a gift for you I don’t want it you can have it for free Than leave very quickly before he or she can speak or do anything at all

Peter says:
23 June 2021

My council now charge me £55 for garden waste collection. The worst thing is that they turn it into compost and sell it! The composting facility is just down the road from me but I’m not allowed to take it there myself.

I hope you pay less in Council Tax than those of us who have ‘free’ garden waste collection, Peter.

I don’t believe there are any charges for taking green waste to the local recycling and waste disposal facility. If it’s allowed to dry and is then bagged up in garden waste bags it shouldn’t cause a mess in the vehicle and three or four trips a years will probably deal with it. A small or medium-sized home composting bin might deal with the smaller prunings and autumn leaves with the addition of the grass cuttings about every three weeks.

If the garden is large and produces a high volume of waste I feel the £55 annual charge for garden waste disposal is reasonable.

I find that keeping the brown bin lid open by 3″-4″ [a thick stem across the opening does the job] allows the contents to dry out, reduces any smell, and enables more to be included over the fortnight between collections. Compressing it with a stick gives optimum capacity and better value for money.

If I have a surplus of green waste a neighbour can usually accommodate it, and vice versa. This has saved us both from making trips to the tip.

If neighbours have small amounts of waste it might make sense to share one green waste bin.

It perhaps makes more environmental sense to compost your green waste and use it to improve your soil. I use my rotary mower to chop up hedge clippings to mix with grass cuttings.

Yes, compost what you can but It depends what the green waste is. Tomorrow my bin will be full of the remains of my neighbour’s Photinia that has not been well for years.

At a previous house we despatched two brown bins every fortnight as well as running a large compost heap. The garden had extensive lawns and ornamental flower beds as well as lots of shrubs and trees so it generated much more waste than we could process. It was one reason why we moved to a house with a smaller garden.

At our present home, the brown bin plus a small compost bin just about keeps pace with the arisings. By meeting the refuse collectors when they came one time I was able to unload another two bags of waste into the brown bin immediately after they emptied it. One of the advantages of living in a cul-de-sac is that the bin lorry has to pass our house twice so we can sometimes catch it on the rebound!

Michael Watson says:
22 September 2021

Also not everybody who lives in the suburbs has access to a nearby library, swimming pool, public parks and walkways, museums, galleries – it’s all relative and local councils need to recognise the subtle differences between their tax payers. Charging for garden waste is a hidden tax on suburbia and should be removed. Charging increased rates on residential parking due to emissions is a tax on the city dwellers – equally cringe worthy given their vehicles are ‘parked’. The balance is wrong and not thought through at all. Garden waste can be recycled easily along with food and city dwellers produce the lowest emissions because they are generally parked 90% of the time. Easy targets, both undeserving, both taxed incorrectly

It is very easy to make a special case for any group of tax payers – but it doesn’t prove anything. Taxes are arbitrary amounts charged according to what the public will bear without causing a revolution – like the tax on American tea imports.

There is no rationale what-so-ever for charging 20% VAT on adult life jackets, but zero rating children’s life jackets. Children’s car safety seats on the other had carry VAT of 5%. Adult safety boots worn by a roofer to protect their feet from nail penetration are zero-rated. Adult safety shoes as worn by a carpet fitter – they need ankle mobility – are standard rated at 20% VAT.

Is a roofer’s safety valued more than a carpet fitter or fisherman? Yet a child’s safety on a boat is to be encouraged more than their safety in a car? Come the that, why 20% VAT, not 19% or 21%?

However, I would take issue with unfairness of on-street parking charges. Roads are for transport, not residents to park their unused cars on. If they don’t like it, build a driveway and garage. With luck, the higher property valuation will push them into the next council tax band and they can pay more rates, like the rest of us who don’t obstruct the roads 90% of the time.

I don’t see why people who have gardens producing large amounts of special waste should not be charged for its collection and disposal. People who live in flats or small terraced property without gardens should not have to subsidise the garden waste disposal of more privileged households.

People with gardens who have personal transport can usually take their garden waste to a municipal waste recycling centre for disposal free of charge.

I believe it is fair to charge for residential on-street parking. The system enables orderly parking on designated lengths of highway with exclusion areas for safety at junctions, bus stops and crossing places. The parking makes street cleansing more difficult and a degree of inconvenience for other road users. The level of the residents’ annual parking charges is at the discretion of the local highway and they range from about £25 to hundreds of pounds in high-value city areas. It’s just part of the price for the perceived advantages of living in the centre of town. Property values which are based on demand tend to sustain such advantages.