More than half of Edinburgh’s garden owners are not registered

Thursday July 26th 2018

More than half of Edinburgh's garden owners are not registered

Written by David Bol, Local Democracy Reporter

Edinburgh could be faced with an increase in fly-tipping and backyard bonfires after less than half of residents with gardens signed up to the council’s controversial new waste collection service.

Midlothian council are introducing a similar scheme that will come into effect in March 2019.

The warning comes as it was revealed that only 45 per cent of Edinburgh residents with gardens registered for the city council’s £25 annual garden waste scheme. The policy, dubbed the ‘garden tax’, has experienced problems over payment and potential fraud – while the deadline was extended until Tuesday following an IT meltdown at the weekend.

Now Conservatives are concerned that the proportion of people with gardens not signed up to the scheme raises questions over the environmental impact of the policy.

Cllr Nick Cook, Conservative environment spokesman, said:

“Paltry sign up figures for the ‘garden tax’ only magnify concerns around increases in fly-tipping, garden bonfires and more waste going to landfill, harming our environment and costing taxpayers even more in the long term.

“With more people also likely to jump in their car and travel to the local recycling centre, the council must offer reassurances that they are ready to cope with increased demand and traffic on surrounding streets.”

A total of 123,804 households across the city were eligible to opt into the new service, which will begin in October. Only 56,028 households registering 61,220 garden waste bins have signed up – tallying up potentially more than £1.3 million from the scheme.

The council had expected only 46 per cent of eligible households to sign up to the controversial scheme but with more bins than properties being registered, the authority says the business case has been met.

After implementation, the service will develop a phased programme of confiscating bins from properties which are not registered for the service.

Transport and Environment Convener, Cllr Lesley Macinnes, said:

“We’ve worked hard to ensure that residents have been kept well informed of the changes to the garden waste service, so I’m pleased that so many people have responded. It’s clear that the public recognise the benefits of this improved service, with so many choosing to sign up and more than 61,000 bins registered for collection, surpassing our targets.

“By introducing this change we will be saving around £1.3m every year, which will go towards the delivery of a range of essential services.”

She added: “Throughout the planning process we’ve taken into account the challenging circumstances faced by some residents, and through our exemption scheme for those receiving Council Tax Reduction, we’ll be able to collect 6,543 garden waste bins for free this year.

“There will of course be further opportunities to register and I would encourage anyone who has missed the deadline to sign up for alerts for the next window later this year so they can benefit from new, fortnightly collections.

“We do acknowledge the risk of fly-tipping, if a small minority of people choose to dispose of their garden waste illegally, though we are confident that our three household waste recycling centres have the capacity to handle any garden waste from those who choose not to use the new service.”

Earlier this year, Cllr Macinnes said other authorities that have introduced a similar scheme have experienced “no significant impact on fly-tipping and misuse of other waste streams”.

Charges for collecting brown bins in Midlothian are to be introduced from March next year meaning residents will need to pay to have their brown bin emptied.

An annual permit will cost £35 per bin, £10 more than Edinburgh’s scheme, and there are no exemptions or concessions.

The brown bin will still be collected fortnightly and charging will begin when collection re-starts in March 2019.

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