Thousands of households are set to lose their free garden waste collections in coming days as a North Yorkshire council brings in new charges for a subscription-only service.
Harrogate Borough Council is the latest to introduce an opt-in service – for a charge at £2 a time – as it scraps its free fortnightly collection service.
At present, the authority argues, only about 60 per cent of the district’s residents have access to free kerbside collections, while the new paid-for ‘subscription’ will be open to all. But as it emerges expected take-up is about 40 per cent, concerns have been raised about the impact.
“I use it around four or five times a year, and I just can’t justify paying for it,” said pensioner Michael Ellison, who was preparing to lose his collection as it was not worth the cost. “I’ve not met anybody who thinks it’s a good idea.”
Today is the last free collection day for his street, Mr Ellison said, with many of his New Park neighbours having taken the chance to cut their grass and prune hedges.
“I’m worried it’s going to lead to an increase in fly-tipping. Everything is squeezing householders and individuals. But my pension is not going up any more to pay for this.”
Letters were sent to residents in May warning them of the change in service. From June 26, garden waste will no longer be collected kerbside by the council free of charge. Instead, residents can ‘subscribe’ to an optional charge scheme where, at a cost of £39 a year or £23.40 until the end of December, fortnightly collections will continue.
Should they choose not to pay, residents are instead encouraged to begin home composting or take their waste to a recycling centre.
“Whilst our current garden waste collection service is greatly valued by our customers, 40 per cent are currently unable to receive it, but pay for it for the remaining 60 per cent through their council tax,” said Coun Zoe Metcalfe, the cabinet member for the environment.
“To ensure that in the long term the service we offer is fair, we want to give all households across the district the opportunity to access this service.”
A consultation had indicated the public valued this service and would be prepared to pay for it, she added. And with over 18,000 households signing up already, she claimed there have been very few criticisms about the change.
“Whilst we would like to expand this discretionary service for free this is simply not possible,” she added.
In recent years, an increasing number of councils have decided to charge for collections. Research carried out by a gardening company, Mantis, last year found that nationally, 42 per cent of local authorities had introduced charges, a number more than doubling in the past five years.
In Yorkshire, that figure was 38 per cent, with the average fee being £32.63.