Suffolk Coastal District Council is to introduce a charge for collecting garden waste from homes during next financial year (2018/19).
At its Cabinet meeting on Tuesday (5 December 2017), Members heard the council was being faced with mounting financial pressures and reluctantly voted in favour of introducing the charges.
People in Suffolk Coastal will be given the option of paying an annual charge of £43 per garden waste bin (the equivalent of paying about £1.65 per fortnightly collection). They will also be given the option of receiving a replacement free larger (240litre) bin for their garden waste, during the first year of the scheme.
The background to this decision is that, in autumn 2015, Suffolk County Council decided it could no longer maintain its financial support for organic waste recycling at the same level and said it believed the service, provided by district councils, should be chargeable because it is a discretionary service (not one that the councils are required to provide).
At the time, our colleagues in the other districts and boroughs in Suffolk (with the exception of Ipswich Borough Council) decided to implement charges for collecting garden waste.
“In 2015, we decided to maintain the ‘free’ garden waste collection service and to bear the cost of reduced Recycling Performance Payment support, despite the financial pressures on the council,” explained Suffolk Coastal’s Leader, Cllr Ray Herring.
“However, at the time, we did recognise that this is discretionary service that we provide and we always said we would have to keep this decision under review.”
“While Suffolk Coastal wanted to avoid introducing charges for collecting garden waste, we have had to bow to the inevitable faced with the harsh realities of our current financial situation.”
“One of the key factors is the dwindling financial support we are receiving from central Government, which is really biting home. So we need to re-examine any options we have open to us to raise money, in order to keep council tax increases down and maintain our services.”
“The reduction in the Recycling Performance Payment support from the county council to Suffolk Coastal equated to an annual shortfall of £150,000, rising to over £200,000 in 2018/19, which has been funded through existing budgets.”
“Added to this, our East Suffolk Business Plan identifies the need for us to become increasingly financially-self sufficient in the future and Suffolk Coastal also remains committed to an ambitious programme of community-based and major capital investments, such as the current leisure redevelopment, in the coming years.”
Suffolk Coastal currently collects about 50,000 tonnes of domestic waste a year. About one third of this (about 15,000 tonnes) is organic waste. This is co-mingled garden (estimated 13,000 tonnes) and food (estimated 2,000 tonnes) waste.
The remaining waste is made up of general ‘residual’ waste at 22,000 tonnes (44%) and dry recycling at about 13,000 tonnes (26%).
At this time, Suffolk Coastal (through its partner Suffolk Coastal Norse) collects comingled organic waste, which is currently processed into an agricultural soil improver at an in-vessel composting facility at Parham.
This organic waste processing contract ends on 31th March 2019, so a new contract is required to provide waste processing arrangements from April 2019 onwards. At its meeting, Cabinet also agreed to begin work on a new contract, looking at the options of continuing to collect comingled organic waste or moving to only collecting garden waste.
Organic waste containing even a small percentage of food waste requires treating in an animal by-product compliant facility and is therefore significantly more expensive than the less regulated systems for processing garden waste alone (about double the cost – so giving a total difference of about £468,500 a year between the two approaches at Suffolk Coastal, based on current levels of collection).
“As we are just approaching the time when we need to negotiate a new contract for organic waste processing in Suffolk Coastal, now is the obvious time to review how we provide this service,” said Cllr Herring.
“Collecting garden waste separately is a discretionary service, which the council is not required to provide. Not everyone has an organic waste bin or uses the service, but we have been subsidising the service from the council tax paid by everyone in the district.”
“This is a fairer system, which is closer to what occurs across most of the rest of the Suffolk and Norfolk. Although there is still further work to be carried out, to decide if we continue to collect comingled organic waste or will provide a garden waste only service from 2019.”
A timetable for introducing the charge for garden waste collection is currently being drawn up, including details of how and when people can join & pay, should they opt to use the service. As soon as this detailed information is available, we will issue it to local residents.