/ Home & Energy

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?

Comments

With cutbacks and capping of council tax , charging for non-statutory services is inevitable as you say,
However it is for your elected councillors to control and set the policy behind these charges (and all council services) and I do think they need to be pressurised into representing the views of their electors more.

Unfortunately collecting all these additional charges individually is costly in overheads and administration while Council tax was a very efficient and cheap way.

jfitz42 says:
3 May 2011

In Milton Keynes we have green wheelie bins for garden and kitchen waste. These are emptied every week as part of the normal rubbish collection. We’re spoilt too because they collect bulky waste, like fridges and furniture free too! I guess this way they save money by not having to deal with fly tipping.

Mike. Parker says:
19 November 2013

So my local council (South Gloucester)wants to charge me to empty my gren pen bin,what a joke?
I was forced to take this bin when I did not want it(we already have 7 bins,bags,or boxes to put out,
I for one will tell them to collect the bin and take it back,

Linda Callear says:
22 November 2017

Im disgusted at having to pay extra for green bin collection. The council tax is more than enough. I think we should charge for all the different boxes and bins etc that clutter up our property. Each one has the name of the council and that its their property printed on them.

Some councils do charge for green bin collection – not ours, but a neighbouring one does. It is collected separately so costs the council more. Many do not put garden waste in a bin, but compost it for example, so perhaps it is fair for those who use the service to contribute to its cost? However, it may be better to only make a charge if and when the bin is actually used, and not an annual charge. I don’t know how best that would be administered, other than by phone or online, like the collection of large items.

Our bins for green waste are brown and the council supplies biodegradable bags for food waste, which can be presented in a caddy or put in the brown bin.

A simple way of charging for removal of green waste would be to sell some sort of label. If you want the bin collected it must have a label attached to the handle, and this would be removed when the bin was emptied.

I invite my neighbours to put their surplus waste in my bins on bin days. In the past year and a half I have put a great deal of green waste in neighbours’ bins in my efforts to get the laurel and shrubs under control. At present I have a decorator in and have accumulated a dozen bags of wallpaper etc. I will be asking my neighbours if they have any space in their bins.

Alternatively you can visit your recycling facility (“tip” in old money) if you have a convenient one.

The pre-purchased label seems a good method.

I take turns with a friend to visit the recycling facility. I accumulate old oil from servicing equipment belonging to a charity and that obviously can’t be put in a bin.

Some councils operate a pre-purchased parking permit scheme, which allows residents to buy day tickets for visitors. That seems to work well.

I agree that those who use services should pay for them.

I like the idea of buying labels for green waste bins wavechange.

We pay over £150 a year for our bins that get collected fortnightly. In bad weather, either they don’t get collected or we haven’t filled them up, and that means we are paying for nothing.

I can’t see councils agreeing to it though.

Astonishing though it might seem to some, even we in the mountains have council-provided recycling bins. There’s a voluminous black ‘wheelie’ bin for all the non-recyclable stuff, a number of battle-hardened green bags for the results of our regular deforestation exercises, nebulous tiny bags for the miniscule food waste (almost only ever bones) and an interesting, three-tier wheelable stack system for the different types of recycling.

We have a three weekly cycle for main bin, two weekly for arboreal disposal and weekly for food waste. but it always struck me that we – as a nation – were far too late to the recycling party, since it was clear for some time that recycling was going to be the way of the world. Because the various systems to recycle hadn’t been established we’ve ended up across the UK with a huge variety of different schemes, causing a loss of millions through each local authority having its own, odd systems.

Too right, Ian

I won’t go on about it here at length because this Conversation is about garden waste, but Norfolk’s paper and card waste is shipped to India, Vietnam and China for processing. It could have been sent to the big paper manufacturing plant at King’s Lynn [Norfolk] if the local authority consortium, in its madness, had not allowed [and encouraged] glass bottles and jars to be put in the recycling bins. The paper plant will not accept the waste because of the risk of contamination by glass fragments that could damage their machinery.

Do container ships consume fossil fuels and cause any air or marine pollution by any chance? Following a newspaper exposé this operation is now “under review” but the spokesman asserts it is the most cost effective arrangement.

Norfolk CC has also apparently been found inept in handling the contract for an incinerator in Kings Lynn. Pulling out of the contract cost them £30m – £19m found from reserves with the remaining £11m from “savings” (cuts in other services perhaps).

Yes, Malcolm – don’t remind us! That was a disastrous episode that cost many millions but achieved nothing except a private company walking away with a massive compensation payment. The contract collapsed because planning permission was not approved [the Secretary of State had called it in but would not grant permission because of the amount of opposition]. The county council mishandled it terribly but while no officers’ heads rolled so far as I am aware there was a complete change of political control at the 2017 elections and Labour lost control to the Conservatives.

In essence it was a good scheme because the heat generated by the waste incinerator would have heated the water used in the adjacent paper mill. The basic objection of Norfolk residents was to the use of incineration; there was popular support for anaerobic digestion but the county council had already [prematurely] entered into a contract with the incinerator company.

As you say, Malcolm it means cuts in essential services plus a 4.9% increase in the County’s precept this year and a further such hike next year in prospect. It also means the reserves have been depleted at a time when they could have eased the pain of other financial stringencies. There seem to be no adverse consequences for the orchestrators of such mismanagement.

A case of premature incineration, perhaps? 🙂

More seriously, I’ve long wondered why Which? doesn’t address the very real problems faced by consumers of Council ineptitude. We pay a lot for council ‘services’ yet are frequently let down by incompetence, idiocy and ineptitude. Time, perhaps. to bring councillors and officials into the same category as business directors…

What seems to happen is either no action is taken, or they are “let go” with a significant pay off and pension contribution. They then pop up with another similarly well-paid job with another local authority, despite their track record – and all funded by us. At least, so it seems from those publicised.

It’s true that in local authorities the incompetent seem to get promoted. There’s an unhealthy fondness for excessive secrecy, too.

Kathryn says:
3 May 2011

Before I moved I had a brown bin which I could use for garden and kitchen waste including left over cooked food, tea bags etc. I could also put cardboard in my brown bin – and this was all at no extra cost. Having moved to a different local authority last September I had to wait until April to get a brown bin for which I have to pay £40 a year. I can only put garden waste such as clippings and weeds in this bin. I just hope the higher landfill tax being imposed on us by Europe isn’t added to my council tax bill next year. Surely providing decent recycling and composting collections will actually save councils and therefore us in the long run.
As jfitz42 says, councils save money by providing free collections – and not having to pay hefty landfill taxes…

Our council collect our brown wheelie bins fortnightly at no charge for garden waste, cardboard, brown paper & food waste.

You can recycle most anything else at the recycling centre (can no longer be called ‘the dump’ because so little is dumped). Excellent service, and all included in the council tax. Big tick!

My local Council – collects garden waste and then composting it as a separate part of the normal waste collection – bulky household items are also collected if you phone. That still does not stop some people dumping illegally.

Diana Price says:
3 May 2011

So why do we have green bins? This is a bit stupid, and some have no means of disposing of stuff themselves,what else, to do, and to charge, well is cheeky.

kenny pickles says:
15 April 2015

garden waste yes I pay 2000 pounds a year council tax I rufuse to pay for garden waste on top we all got a letter last year stating we can burn it compost it or take it away ourselves so I bought a special bin for burbing garden waste wat happened well some clown complained to council came round said cant burn it lol I am getting a copy off the letter sent to all households here in fence nr burnley last year my local counciler says he will act on it also he told me that any leaves off other peoples garden goes into yours can throw them back over his fence cos you will be paying to remove is garden waste if you don’t back off us man as 6 large trees we ave to clean up is waste well

Perhaps the council are indicating that a service which calls to collect individual bags of garden cuttings is not very economic and also not very green in terms of vehicle pollution. It would seem logical that is the position.

From the Councils view you adding it into your kitchen waste may not be a problem, or if it is substantial you, or a friend, or neighbour might take it to a tip. Those who generate a lot of garden waste will more easily justify the cost. And possibly those who do not compost yet may find it an attractive option.

Finally there is an option to plant the garden with less shrubby plants using sedums, alpines ,buxus instead of perhaps fast growing plants like dogwoods, leylandii[!] .. as an example.

BTW Are councils targeted for recycling and green waste can be used to achieve target?

pickle says:
4 May 2011

Well, if you’re fit enough to garden why not take the waste to the council tip? It’s free!

Not here it ain’t Pickle! Round here there is a charge for taking anything to the local “dumpit” site, but green sacks for garden waste can be collected for free for the local libraries and council offices and they are then collected within 20 days of you ‘phoning for them to be fetched.

Also, don’t forget that many people don’t drive so getting the rubbish to the council tip, free or otherwise, is not an option for a lot of folk.

Pickle – I’m 80 and can manage my garden – but why should I transport say three bags of garden waste to the dump at some cost to me when the service is already supplied by the council already – free of charge – or rather I already pay for it in my council tax.??

I don’t understand why all local councils are not forced to adopt the same policy. We all pay virtually the same in council tax so why don’t we get the same services?

As I have said in other similar threads, the council CAN provide this service as other councils do so, it’s just the london and surrounding boroughs that seem intent on forcing us onto the roads to take the rubbish away. Why is this?

Ummm

The Council Tax in my London Council depends on the rateable value – The highest tax is over three times the lowest tax. So even here the individual council tax is vastly different. But the council still provides each of us two waste bins – one for paper, cardboard and plastic bottles etc – and one for other household waste. They also will collect garden waste for those that do not compost – and turn it into compost for us to re-use.

They also will collect and dispose of large household items.

So my London Council is NOT forcing us onto the roads to take the rubbish away. They do it for us. Mind you our Council is well run by Labour.

Dean – Because we have local democracy. And I would rather have local councils than be run from Whitehall. Not all councils have the same assets / problems to deal with.

Hehe, sorry but that statement does not mean anything to me. If anything, local democracy over-complicates issues which really are not. Most councils outside of London and the south-east have a much better attitude to re-cycling than those within.

What exactly are you proposing that southern councils have to deal with that other english councils do not?

Its the bureaucracy that we do NOT need in this instance as the solution is absolute, clear and uncomplicated.

You need 3 bins, 1 for Garden and green waste, 1 for cardboard/paper/bottles/plastics/etc and 1 for all other waste. This is done throughout the UK, yet southern councils have more to deal with apparently.

Please elaborate

Firstly the censored word in my post use the word asset / problems ….. I think Which? might do something about that please.

Secondly, : )

I too live in a London Borough and I have a Conservative run council and the wheelie bin I have is very large and is collected every Monday between 6 – 7 am regardless of Bank Holidays. The recyclables are collected fortnightly from the two boxes provided, as is the garden waste in season. I have no complaints.

However this is a densely packed area so it is fairly easy to collect a lot of waste reasonably efficiently. If I were running a rural council it may well be a different cost structure as the cost of my expensive refuse lorry and crew would be spread over less houses per mile travelled and the necessary trip to empty the lorry may mean less houses can be done in a day. I would therefore need more lorries or might need to economise in other ways, possibly going to fortnightly collections for household rubbish.

In a lot of areas there has been resistance to wheelie type rubbish bins because terraced housing requires them to be parked in front of the house. Issuing plastic bags is one remedy which is used in South Oxfordshire I believe. However it may be that in parts of that District different methods apply to rural areas where vermin are a problem. I would hate to generalise : )

But sure as eggs is eggs one solution would not sort all circumstances either personally or at a council level.

Sorry dieseltaylor – fixed now!

This is very enlightening: I thought we had quite a poor service here (Sheffield) because we don’t have any garden waste BINS but have to fetch sacks from the council offices. The sacks used to be charged at £1.50 per pack of 6 and you never could and still cannot use sacks other than the council’s ones. They have been free for the last 2 years, which is a major improvement, but we still have to ring forthem to be collected, collection is still up to 20 working days after you’ve called, they won’t fetch less than 3 (full) ones nor more than 12 and the different crews have different ideas about what constitutes “too full”, “Too heavy”, and “contents unsuitable”, so it’s by no means unusual for some of your sacks to be left behind (usually to be collected by a different crew next time you call!)

However, having read other people’s posts, it looks as though every one gets a different service and in many cases far worse than us. Milton Keynes seems to be the exception where everything looks rosy as far as I can see.

Regarding my query on green waste targets I Googled a Council at random.

“Rushmoor’s waste increases by 20% during the summer months as householders work hard on their gardens. Garden and kitchen waste can be usefully turned into compost and reused at home. The Council has already issued’ 10,900 compost bins to residents free of charge. At 44% the Council has surpassed the Government target of 40% houses with gardens to be composting at home by the year 2000. ”

They charge £30 p.a for a collection service. The site is interesting though someone checking it for sense might be useful.

Surely its ecologically and financially a good idea to compost as much of your own garden waste as possible yourself?
For the last couple of years I’ve grown tomatoes in a mixture of garden waste compost and soil. Perhaps not as good a crop as the fancy soil mixtures or growbags the purists use, but for twenty plants from a £1.50 pack of seeds grown in plastic tubs and no other cost they’re excellent value and taste ok to me
No petrol used on trips to the council recycling centre and/or no rip off charges to have grass clippings taken away (two cuts out of three I just leave grass clippings on the lawn anyway)
If you can put the effort into gardening in general you can surely put the effort into recycling garden waste. If not you’re just lazy.

Our large garden, mainly ornamental, generates more waste than we could possibly compost so we have fortnightly brown bin collections at about £40 a year each for two bins. The collection arrangements function very reliably. South Norfolk Council sells the material to a compost producer so it helps keep the council tax down. Some people with smaller gardens probably do insinuate the small amount of waste arising into their general refuse. I have no real complaint about the system nor do I mind that it is a lower cost elsewhere although I do feel that our Council could give us a couple of bags of free compost from time to time! Some councils who do their own composting of the horticultural waste arising from their municipal parks have a “help yourself” day for people to collect compost from the council depot. Whatever the merits of home composting, having a number of compost heaps around the garden in various stages of decomposition is not very appealing and the Council’s service suits us fine.

It is difficult for the elderly and those with small gardens to compost their waste, but those with bigger gardens should think about the environment, as Chris suggests, and compost their own waste. I’m sure that John Ward could conceal his compost heaps somewhere in his large garden.

Wavechange

But if the council is already collecting garden waste in your street as a service – and as in the majority of cases actually composting it – often either selling or giving it back when ready. The environment is already considered. If the council visits the elderly with small gardens already then the costs are already calculated.

Or are you proposing the council only makes special wasteful trips to collect the elderlies garden waste?

Richard

Large amounts of garden waste mean more trips of large vehicles to and from the council compositing site and probably more collection vehicles, so there is a significant environmental impact.

Council-run collection is better than us all delivering our own garden waste, but is it too much to expect gardeners to compost their own waste if they can?

Wavechange – I really disagree – here the garden waste is collected fortnightly – the waste lorry does around five or six large streets – They would have to travel the same distance if it was say only five houses (it is the distance travelled that costs) as they have to do the journey anyway – though some return journeys would be saved – but not enough to compensate for the cost of the entire garden waste enterprise which is needed for a few houses as well as many.

From what I’ve seen of present day lifestyles – it is too much to expect very busy people to compost in tiny gardens when they have other things to do.

Richard – We are going to have to disagree and end this dialogue. As I made clear, my comments relate to those like John Ward who have large gardens that generate large amounts of compostable waste.

In considering environmental impact we need to consider the overall situation and not how your garden waste (or mine) is dealt with.

Local Hero says:
5 May 2011

In surrey we pay around £80 pa for a garden wheelie bin collected once per fortnight.
We also have a black wheelie bin (non recycling), green wheeli bin (recycling) and small food waste bin included for our Council Tax.
I resent this as through careful recycling we only generate one small supermarket carrier bag of land fill rubbish each week, about 10% of the wheelie bin capacity. Further more, the larger houses with the larger gardens already pay the larger share of Council tax

Harry says:
6 May 2011

Our local council (Ashfield) charges £20 for a fortnightly garden waste collection from March until October. It’s great value. I choose to make the waste and have no means of either composting it or burning it (once it’s dried out). It saves me lugging the equivalent of a big wheelie bin to the tip twice a month. It would do my back in, cost me petrol, probably muck up the car a bit and take about an hour. That’s well worth much less than £1 a week. I don’t see why it should come out of the general council tax which I’m glad the council use for more important services that benefit everyone.

Have to say The London Clean Air Act means we cannot burn our garden rubbish. – If we do the council will impose fines (quite rightly in my opinion)

My council collects garden waste free when required and we can obtain the resulting compost at very low prices. That seems to benefit everyone – No smoke pollution – keeps garden clear of rotting heaps – and the compost is pretty good too..

val says:
7 May 2011

I live in South Somerset, our council charges £42 for a green wheelie bin, and fortnightly collections, This has happened for the last few years..You can still use the council re-cycling sites, but cutbacks, mean they have shorter opening hours, and some sites now charge!

Patricia says:
7 May 2011

I have an average sized garden with lots of perennial plants and shrubs and used to make many trips to the tip in my car each year and had to wait in long queues with the car engine running. Now I pay £27.05 per year for a big wheelybin which is collected every two weeks. I think this is great value for money.

LK says:
7 May 2011

Not all garden waste composts well, for example holly – it simply does not degrade. And some of us are stuck with large woody shrubs that we inherited from previous occupiers. Also the accepted advice is not to compost perennial weeds in small home compost heaps as they don’t get hot enough. So I for one do not mind the £35 charge we have in Woking for garden bins, but I am sorry that we are not offered the chance to buy back any of the compost!

Sue says:
9 May 2011

Our Council (Maidstone, Kent) does make a charge to collect garden rubbish but gives residents a choice of either paying an annual fee of £30 for a large green wheelie bin or buying special plastic bin bags (approx. 50p each). Garden rubbish is collected fortnightly. Residents can put out for collection either the wheelie bin or plastic sacks. It means that those with smaller gardens can opt for the plastic sacks which work out cheaper.