/ 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?


Why not take your bags to the local household refuse site yourself? That’s a lot cheaper then £25 if you have only 3 bags a year. Ok it’s not practical if you don’t have a car, but where I live, the local site is the most popular venue on a Sunday afternoon!
I don’t believe the cost of collecting garden refuse should be covered by council tax as that already includes the costs of lots of services that are of no use to many people. Let the user pay.
Or, do what others do – put it into carrier bags and hide it in the normal rubbish bin, maybe over a few weeks worth of collections – it will bio-degrade in landfill!

Here in Nottingham my council Gedling Boro charge £34 pound a year for a separate wheelie bin collection this is emptied every other week in the spring summer & Autumn & every month in winter I think this represents good value for money in fuel save alone. I think an extra bin is another £12 pound a year

I am sorry that my comment on 5 May sparked a ding-dong between Wavechange and Richard. Both are right – [a] I should compost more at home, and [b] the marginal financial and environmental costs of the collection of my garden waste are negligible. I should have explained that most of our large garden is on a prominent street frontage where – out of consideration for our neighbours and passers-by – we have desisted from installing composting facilities, and our smaller rear garden is primarily for our private enjoyment although much space is already taken up with the paraphernalia of horticulture. Although we greatly enjoy doing our garden we occasionally wonder whether we are not already contributing more than our fair share to the public realm; perhaps it is time to remind the community that sustainable gardening has an aesthetic price [and a fragrance all its own!] by creating a couple of compost heaps near the driveway.

MikeAli says:
8 June 2011

I’d like to squash the myth that compost heaps are smelly.
A working compost heap has a rather sweet smell. You need to get the right balance of wet and dry material by layering. Avoid dumping a lot of soggy material in without an aerating layer.
The paper shedder is a good source for a dry layer if nothing is available from the garden.
If it is too dry, add urine. This also helps the chemical balance of the final compost.
Don’t try to compost wood. Create a heap in a dark corner somewhere and nature will break it down for you. You will be rewarded with more wildlife, especially birds who feed on the beetles and grubs.

G. M. Ellis says:
10 May 2011

In Wyre Forest, Worcestershire we have to pay for our green waste wheelie bin and collection once per fortnight, which in my own case is cost effective. I usually have more than a full bin and any extra is collected as well. The choice of using the facility is upto the houseowner, alternatively you take the waste to the tip in your car. The service offered is very friendly, the bin men helpful and the extra amount they will take is exceptional. This I suppose is what we are paying for.

Our council (West Lancs) do not charge (other than through the normal council tax) for the collection of green waste so long as certain criteria are met. The provide us with 2 wheelie bins (1 grey for household waste & 1 green for garden waste not vegetable peelings or food waste), a blue box for plastic bottles & tin/aluminium tins along with a blue bag for paper. Additionally they also collect cardboard. The collections are fortnightly with the recyclable bins etc one week & the grey bin the other week. The County Council have also supplied, at various times over the years, free compost bins & I now have 3 of those.

I work on the principle of home composting all veg/fruit waste with a percentage of garden waste but so as not to overload the bins with grass cuttings, most of the lawn cuttings (based on a weekly cut) are put in the green wheelie bin along with weeds. If pruning bushes etc. then these will be either shredded for the home composters or into the green bin, if possible.
However the council will only take what will fit in the green or grey bins although they do take more than the containesrs for the blue box.bag & cardboard! If I have excess then I take it to the recycling centre (tip) which is quite comprehensive in its facilities.

Our council covers both rural & urban areas & do provide a good service & for us this works very well, although I would be prepared to pay if it was seen as a cost cutting measure & made fair. However we don’t have many domestic properties in the area which are gardenless, albeit some may be shared or small. This probably makes it economical to provide the waste collection services we get. If this was a large area of high rise or gardenless properties as happens in London & other large cities then other mechanisms may be better/fairer. The Council Tax band will reflect the size of property but not necessarily garden & hence for garden waste paument for collection may be fairer if based on volume.

Jean says:
21 May 2011

Merton council ,Wimbledon..Labour majority is introducing an annual charge of 65 pounds to collect green waste!! 50 pounds if you are a pensioner or disabled..this is an outrage as many of us dont have cars to go to the one recycling point also most dont have green waste every fortnight so cannot see anyone signing up for this!!! we will be burnuing our green waste possibly

ronnie says:
30 June 2011

my council charge approx £50 a year for my brown bin which is collected ever fortnight this is good value and works out at £2 per collection, the alternative is to put it in black bags and take to tip a round trip of 10 miles. I am happy to pay for the service.

My sister in Gloucester has to pay extra for any garden waste to be taken away and is not allowed to use bio food waste bags either,
In Cardiff we have free bio food waste bags which go in the green wheelie bin with all garden waste (altho we are keeping some select things for our own compost bin) the wheelie bin is emptied every week, if we have extra garden green waste we can take it to the recycling centre for free , my mother in Glos has to pay to go into the tip!
I hadn’t realised how lucky we were

Milly says:
4 July 2011

In Herefordshire, we have to buy disposable garden rubbish bags, costing about 50p if I remember rightly. I have been told that the contents go to landfill. I buy them for occasional use but I have a compost heap and put weeds and rose prunings etc into old compost bags and take them to the tip when I have a car load. I can combine it with a supermarket shop so don’t feel it’s too wasteful.(Everything else about our rubbish collection is great: normal rubbish in a black bag weekly, recycling in a wheelie bin fortnightly; the garden bags go with the latter)
Where my daughter lives in Reading, in an area of terraced houses, each house can have three wheelie bins outside. It has ruined the look of the area. Garden rubbish goes in either a green bin (costing £25) or a green bag (£10). The first bag she had was stolen but three bins was just too much in such a small front garden. The council is now considering an annual fee on top of the initial cost.
(Terraced houses where I live have clear plastic bags for recycling rather than an unsightly bin permanently parked outside.)
Why can’t councils compare notes and find the best solution? Reading took advice on introducing wheelie bins from daventry, which has since abandoned them, I believe.

Ruth says:
14 July 2011

We have lived in Sevenoaks for over 10 years and have always had to pay for green waste collections. It costs £12 for 25 heavy duty paper sacks or £42 per year for a wheelie bin permit. Collections are fortnightly. Seems fair to me as those with not much waste can buy the sacks and they don’t go off so they can potentially last for years. The waste is composted at high temperature and then sold back to us in bags; but I would never buy it as I know what’s gone into it!!! High temp or not, I don’t trust them not to give me back the bindweed and couch grass!

relaxing says:
30 July 2011

In Manchester, we have 4 wheelie-bins: for paper & cardboard; for placcy bottles, glass, & cans; for garden & food waste; and for non-recycleables. It’s all free. We may tiny the garden waste to fit in more, and lift the lid on a piece of 2×1″ to let the breeze dry the stuff so it doesn’t get soggy and so stick to the bin’s bottom. There’s special little bags for the food. Putting a half-brick on top deters seagulls, foxes and high winds. We may break the glass, too, so we fit more in; along with crushing the cans and heat-flattening the placcy bottles [hot water from the tap does it]. Most folks only put their bins out when full.
With councils being as they are, it might be cool to practice Community Recycling, by finding someone nearby with a council that takes garden rubbish for free, and u share yr garden rubbish with them. U’ll likely be able to return the service with something else. All the Best.

Eileen Doyle says:
17 September 2011

I have always had to pay the Council for collecting Garden Waste. Norwich was one of the ‘Pilot Scemes’ in this and I believe the charge at first was £30 per annum; this has now risen to £40. As my garden is nearly 1/4 of an acre I find the service very necessary although some of the waste still has to go to the :tip’ in certain seasons as the collection is Fortnightly. It is interesting to hear that in some places people have a free service of this kind. However as my charge only works out at less than £4 per month I and I am happy with it. I do not mind although of course Free would be batter!

Eileen Doyle

Barry K says:
27 October 2011

I’ve just discovered that my local council are planning an annual £25 charge for garden waste and are reducing the collections from fortnightly to monthly. Those that opt out will have their bin taken away.
This is such a shame as we recycle the vaste majority of all our waste – now all our raw vegetable waste, cardboard etc will go into the normal bin – doubling the amount we send to landfill or EfW sites. Just as we start to see the benefits of educating the nation on the importance of reducing waste and recycling we introduce punitive measures that will set us back several years.
I don’t agree with charging those with larger gardens more as this assumes those with bigger houses have more disposable cash and is a form of income tax. A simpler council tax system is cheaper to administer and can provide for everyones needs – which vary from one house to the next

Our Council will be charging us £45 for a fortnightly garden waste collection later this year. They refused to back down.

We have had a weekly collection in recyclable bags and before that in biodegradable bags.The recycling rate went up considerably once we all had the recyclable bags as before that we had to search out the bags at libraries etc, and many people who composted stopped as this was now available and possibly less effort than composting/burning.

Our collections have been weekly for everything so far. We have a black sack collection which many of us keep inside a small bin on the edge of our property from which it is collected, green box for many recyclables, white reusable bag for mixed plastics, and a food waste collection.

The previous Council consulted us and we voted against wheelie bins and chose what we preferred. We don’t have space for wheelies which for many of us would remain empty anyway. Our changed Council is now changing a system which was working well without consulting us. Many people whose houses back onto parks were happy to collect the leaves from the park trees and street trees which fell into their gardens and place them out for collection rather than return them to the park or leave them in the street. This goodwill is now totally lost. (Some have excess of 20 wheelie bins of leaves which means they are not likely to be able to compost this amount themselves. If they try and take them to the Recycling Site they are also likely to be refused entry because of the amount.)

Many of us feel that more thought should have been taken and adjustments made to our current system to encourage more composting and more recycling and less residual waste but it seems that rather than face the problem of those people who don’t and won’t do anything it is politically easier to jump on a bandwagon. Instead of doing this and consulting the residents it seems the Council is relying on changes in collection to draw residents attention to the subject. Can Councils do anything without winning a grant nowadays?

We all know recycling goes up every time a Council reminds residents that they should be doing this after a long break with no information (and changing population). The report recommending this charging as a way for Councils to make money makes no reference to another report made in the last few years saying that different collections were necessary/suitable for different areas/ properties etc. Suddenly it is one size fits all – only it doesn’t.

I’m sure many will return to sneaking it into the black sacks or burning it rather than paying an extra tax. Or worse – fly-tip. Meanwhile the Council collection will travel the same streets and will incur extra administration costs.

We are now waiting to see whether the lorries will be able to negotiate our narrow streets.

Paul Groombridge says:
26 June 2013

We are charged £30 per annum to collect our green waste in Cirencester and have no problem with this charge. It saves numerous trips to the re-cycling centre throughout the year, which we had to do before the scheme was introduced a few years ago.

JLS says:
28 June 2013

In Elmbridge I pay £35 per annum to have my brown garden waste bin emptied fortnightly . I also had to purchase the bin from the council. it is convenient, although, if I am away on the appropriate date or have masses of prunings, etc I still have to do one or two runs each year to the “tip”.

Maggi Bridgman says:
2 July 2013

I am happy to say that this year I have signed up for the Portsmouth City Council’s brown bin collection. I’ve paid £30 for a year and they have lent me a huge, brown, wheelie bin which is emptied by the sub-contractor every 2 weeks. A very convenient and good service. It saves me loading my car up and driving some distance to dispose of this waste.

Mike Hails says:
3 July 2013

I am happy to pay for our garden waste to be collected. We have recycling, non-recyclables and food waste collected ‘free’ as part of what we pay in Council Tax.
We compost what we can, but there is quite a lot that needs to go in the garden waste bin. It used to be quite a palaver to take the bulky garden waste to the tip, which is a 22-mile round trip. The council used to provide a Saturday morning collection point in town, but so many people used it that the lorry was quite often full by the time I got there, or else there were loads of other people doing the same.
Our council (South Oxfordshire District) does have plans to offer the compost back to residents, I believe, but there is only a small scale pilot project at the moment. I’m surprised that you have only just got news that some people are paying. We have had this service for some years.

grumpy says:
4 August 2014

I wouldn’t mind paying for a bin or two, but my local council are far more expensive than neighbouring ones. Mine charge £30 for every bin whereas a nearby council charge £22 for the first and £10 for additional ones.
So for 2 bins where I live it’s double the cost. There should be some uniformity, as I can’t see how my council need to charge so much more for a service that will cost them exactly the same to run as other local councils. Smacks of profiteering and will put people off joining the scheme.

grumpy – Could you name your Councul and the other one who is cheaper. It makes it a lot easier if in my idle curiosity I want to look at the costs, whether the bins are the same size, whether one is commercial versus in house etc.