The BBC have reported on an interesting disparity between UK councils when it comes to council garden waste recycling collection charges. Some are completely free of extra charge and others have up to nearly £100 annual fee.

It has been described as a “quiet green tax” on taxpayers with gardens, who already pay council tax, income tax and their other tax liabilities.

The report is based on analysis of information from the Shared Data Unit which includes each UK council and, among other things, the initial cost of garden waste bins, their size, collection frequency and cost to citizens.

Why do councils collect garden waste at all?

Councils collect and recycle garden waste into compost, which can then be used on council projects and sold to the public. The alternative is that is goes into a landfill site where it creates methane gas as it breaks down.

Composting does create carbon dioxide, but it produces a valuable product. Both carbon dioxide and methane gas are considered greenhouse gases which are harmful to our environment. But methane gas is 25 times more destructive than carbon dioxide.

How much are we paying to get garden waste collected by the council?

Kerbside garden waste collection are priced very differently, depending on where you live in the UK. Here are some examples of the range, the full breakdown of each council’s charge is in the Shared Data Unit’s document.

  • Scotland: more than ¾ of Scottish councils collect garden waste for free
  • Northern Ireland: all 11 councils’ garden waste collection is free
  • Wales: 1/2 of Welsh councils collect for free
  • 140 English local councils are free of extra charge
  • The average annual cost of garden waste collection is £34.00
  • The range of costs goes from £18.00 to £96.00 per year

Why should they be free?

Considering our current climate crisis, many people feel like this is one of the small but crucial cogs in our management strategy. Reducing methane emission is a key factor, so all opportunities must be taken to ensure this happens at a UK level.

Gardeners Club Managing Director, Anthony O’Sullivan, said this “quiet green garden tax which seems to go against every other positive environmental initiative the UK is trying to promote. So whilst the rest of the world is encouraging us all to reduce our carbon footprints and generally live a better environmental way of life, why are UK councils doing the opposite?”

Lots of people think that garden waste collection is something they have already paid for as part of their council tax, so no extra charge should be levied.

There is also the fact that councils make use and money from the compost, so perhaps that financial element could be used to balance the cost.

Why do some councils charge?

Well, every service has to be paid for by someone. There is the option to take your garden waste to the council plant yourself for no extra charge. Provision of garden waste bins and the collection of their waste on your doorstep all requires money to be spent. Council budgets are increasingly squeezed and garden waste recycling is something they are legally obliged to provide.

Is putting up council tax overall the fair way to cover this additional cost? Not if you don’t have a garden at all. Some councils take the position that the “polluter pays”. If you home compost, take your green waste to the recycling plant yourself or don’t generate any such waste because you do not have a garden, then why should you pay for it?

Perhaps the issue is bigger than a ‘green tax’ and we should be focusing on saving our planet at all costs. And the ideal would be to share out those costs fairly. As some councils have said, if the government follows through with its intention to have free garden refuse collection for all by 2024, then they will have to provide extra funds.