Highest take-up of garden waste charge in Kent brings in £900,000

The levy has been brought in as part of its new Waste Services Contract. The changes in refuse collection began on Monday [September 30] after a seven-month period of logistical overhaul for the new contractor Urbaser.

Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council [TMBC] also reports that the number of complaints it received fell by a quarter in the first three months under Urbaser.

For the first time the arrangements include an opt-in charge of £40 a year for residents who want to have their garden waste collected.

In total more than 23,000 households, or 43 per cent, have signed up – ‘by far the highest in Kent’, according to TMBC.

It was initially discounted to £35 for the first two years, with the ‘early bird’ offer expiring on August 2 – 20,400 took advantage of this offer.

The initial estimate of annual income from this levy was forecast to be £550,000, based on a take-up rate of 30 per cent.

But by the start of this month that had risen to £888,800 – an increase of 61.6 per cent per cent on predictions.

The council justified the decision to start charging for green waste because the revenue will allow it to expand its kerbside collections.

From next week these will now include plastics and glass. Tonbridge & Malling had been one of only three councils in the UK not to offer plastic recycling, along with the Isles of Scilly and Rotherham.

There will also be a weekly food waste collection so that this can be kept separate and converted into fertiliser.

The council joined forces with its counterpart in Tunbridge Wells to set up the new contract.

However, residents in the neighbouring town will have to pay £52 a year to have their garden waste picked up – with 20,000 households opting in.

Robert Styles, TMBC’s Director of Street Scene, Leisure & Technical Services, said of new charge: “I am delighted that so many of our residents have chosen to sign up, with 23,512 households subscribing.

“Over 40 per cent of households in the borough signed up to the new scheme within the four months since subscriptions opened [on May 7].

“This represents by far the highest take-up of opt-in garden waste services in Kent. The original estimate for the take-up rate was 30 per cent, based on performance levels of similar local authorities.”

He told the Times: “The council chose to set an annual charge below the national average and with a two-year discount, the uptake has not come as a great surprise.

“Income achieved from the garden waste scheme has enabled the council to significantly improve the service in line with residents’ wishes.

“Most notably this has been by introducing kerbside household collections of glass, plastic, textiles and food waste.

The council budgeted to spend £600,000 in order to supply new bins and food caddies, but will now have to spend more because of the success of the garden waste scheme.

In three months from April to June there was a 25 per cent reduction in the total number of complaints about Urbaser’s service compared to the previous year under previous contractor Veolia.

There was also a 77 per cent reduction in the number of ‘actual’ missed collections – though only five per cent fewer reports of missed collections.

The new kerbside service means that the number of bring-bank sites – where people can take their recycling – has been reduced from 41 to ten.

There will no longer be such facilities in the car parks at Lower Castle Field and the Angel Centre, Tonbridge Farm, Swanmead sports ground, Haysden Country Park, Six-In-One Club on Northwood Road, Poult Wood Golf Centre, Nizels Golf Club in Hildenborough, The Plough pub in Leigh and Vauxhill Inn on Pembury Road.

The remaining local sites are located at Sovereign Way Car Park in the town and at Hadlow College.

Mark Hood, Green party councillor for Judd ward, said: “I asked that the cost of the service be held down in the future in response to this huge bonus.

“The charge is purely a money-making scheme as the two local councils and Kent County Council share £2.5million in savings through the new Urbaser contract each year.”

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