Amber Valley considering garden waste U-turn

Residents in the Derbyshire district of Amber Valley could see a return to paid-for garden waste collections with the council seeking to hold a consultation on service changes in a bid to cut costs.

A cabinet report on the current free-to-use garden waste service, which was brought in just over a twelve months ago, recommends that the council launch a public consultation over whether to yet again bring in a yearly subscription for residents to use the service – or to scrap garden waste services altogether.

Green waste collections in Amber Valley, Derbyshire
Green waste collections in Amber Valley, Derbyshire

Amber Valley borough council cabinet members will decide on whether to go ahead with the three-week consultation at a meeting next Wednesday (September 3).

The council bucked the national trend in April 2013 when the Conservative-led authority opted to move to a free garden waste service from a £40-per year scheme (see letsrecycle.com story). This saw an increase in the uptake of the service, which the council had said was likely to lead to a rise in tonnage collected as well as higher recycling rates.

However, elections in May 2014 saw Labour take control of the council, and it is opting for a review of various council services – including the free garden waste collections – with a view to making savings.

The report recommends consulting on changing the garden waste service because of “increasing pressure on the council’s financial resources” which “require further savings to be made over the coming years”.

Costs

According to the cabinet report, the operational costs of the free garden waste service are around £350,000 per year – around £30 per participating household – which is provided for in the 2014/15 budget.

‘Any significant change to the service, such as introducing a chargeable service, is likely to lead to a reduction in the number of customers on the service, will result in a deterioration of the Council’s recycling and composting rate and may also have a detrimental effect on overall satisfaction levels with the refuse and recycling services.’

Council report

These operational costs are financed through annual savings from the council’s re-negotiation of its refuse and recycling contract with Veolia in April 2013, when the garden waste service became free aside from a one-off £20 payment to cover the cost of a 240-litre garden waste bin.

However, the report notes that any move back to a paid-for service is likely to lead to a drop in the number of people using it and a “deterioration of the council’s recycling and composting rate”.

It also adds that charging residents for this service is “unlikely to be popular with residents” and “may also have a detrimental effect on overall satisfaction levels with the refuse and recycling services”, making it “prudent” to consult with residents before any decisions are made.

In addition, if the approximate 4,000 tonnes of garden waste material currently collected each year was sent to landfill instead, landfill costs for Derbyshire county council could increase by around £400,000 a year.

The report does also note the possibility of expanding the current free service, however, should the suggested online, three-week consultation find public support for doing so, this could increase council costs at a time of “increasing pressure” on its financial resources.

Free service

Amber Valley operated a garden waste service from 2008 to 2012 at a cost of £39/40 per property per year. During this period, customer levels peaked at 3,800 properties each year, collected by one vehicle and its crew.

However, after the move to a free service in April 2013, the number of properties using the service subsequently rose to full capacity, according to the report, with 12,500 garden waste bins being collected from 12,350 households.

The tonnage of material collected for composting also rose from 1,517 tonnes in 2012/13 to 4,093 tonnes in 2013/14.

Alongside an increase of around 1,000 tonnes per year of dry recycling collected in 2013/14 from changes to the Veolia contract, the free garden waste service helped to boost the council’s recycling rate from 26.7% in 2011/12 to 33% in 2013/14.

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Amber Valley borough council

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