Waste not want not

Garden wasteGarden waste

Redbridge Council's garden waste collection service will resume next month – with a difference. Wanstead resident Steve Wilks explains why he thinks the new scheme will cost us all more than the £50 charge.

Last December, Redbridge Council decided that its garden green waste collection service would no longer run all year round and will now only operate fortnightly between April and October. Additionally, residents will be charged £50 per year for the service (in return for 50 biodegradable bags to use).

The council cited a £1.1m government grant that had been used to fund the service and which has now run out. While all London councils are making cuts to services and feeling financial pressures, Redbridge has increased our Council Tax, so residents are already contributing to the shortfall in revenues. Even in difficult economic times, it is crucial to maintain measures to protect our environment and encourage sustainability, and to look for cuts across a range of waste services, not drastically charge extra for one particular key service. Even more telling is that there are no plans for concessionary charges for people on low incomes, so they will be disproportionately impacted.

The council provides a free bulky waste collection service and it is questionable why this has not been scaled back (perhaps to three free collections from the current six) or been made a paid-for service itself. Most residents would prioritise green waste collections over bulky waste as many have gardens in our leafy suburb. Bulky waste collections tend to be for one-off items and most people expect to pay for this anyway.

This change has been pushed through without any public consultation or long-term thought. It would have been prudent for the council to have realised that the grant money would run out eventually and not to have offered free bulky waste collections in the first place if it meant that key waste services would have to be scaled back.

The council has also failed to consider the consequences of this change, such as increased fly-tipping (some people will not pay), which will lead to greater costs of enforcement and clearance. There is also the potential that some people may mix green waste with general rubbish to get around the rules, making recycling more problematic when it needs to be sorted at the depot.

It is important to recognise that cost should not be the only factor that is considered, and this change will potentially encourage people not to follow the rules. Such schemes should be encouraging people to recycle and dispose of their waste properly, which is what the previous system was achieving. The change needs a rethink about the practicalities of enforcement and to ensure our waste services meet the majority of Redbridge Council taxpayers' needs, not just a subset of them.

A free garden waste collection site is open at Wanstead Leisure Centre from 10am to 4pm on Sundays until the end of March. For more information, visit wavidi.co/wst

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