Free brown bins for volunteers in West Suffolk?

Ed Smith
Ed Smith
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A critic of West Suffolk’s new brown bin charge, which takes effect from next month, has been invited to sign up to get ‘his’ bin for free.

For years Ed Smith, 68, of Westley Road, Bury St Edmunds, has been using his brown bin to collect leaves and garden waste from within his community.

He regularly clears the public footpath near his house and has hit out at the annual £40 charge being introduced by St Edmundsbury Borough and Forest Heath District Councils for their optional brown bin service from April 4, claiming it will hit the most vulnerable people hardest and will discourage community spirit.

He said: “The backlash from this is that people like myself have simply said ‘well I’m not going to bother any more’.

“We’re losing the goodwill of people who have the time, inclination and neighbourly attitude to help.

“They feel spited by this and they’re just going to withdraw, so the council is going to lose out in the long run.”

But, after ‘robust communication’ with the council, he has been invited to sign up to get his brown bin for free.

A spokeswoman for the councils said there were no discounts for residential garden waste collections and the invitation extended to Mr Smith was part of a ‘Love Where You Live’ campaign for community pride.

In the same way that they provide equipment and collection of waste for litter picks, she said free bins were being offered to people who serve their neighbourhoods year round by clearing leaves and footpaths and mowing grass and verges.

Anyone who thinks they may qualify can apply online at www.westsuffolk.gov.uk/lwyl or email customer.services@westsuffolk.gov.uk or call 01284 763233.

Meanwhile, an anonymous letter sent to the Bury Free Press claims the £500,000 funding gap the councils used to justify removing the free brown bin service is a “flawed figure” – based on estimated gate fee increases from last year which have not materialised – and is actually closer to £80,000.

The assumption was it would increase from £34.11 to £46 a tonne, but a more realistic assumption today would be £24.50 per tonne, it claims.

A council spokeswoman said: “It costs the West Suffolk councils around £585,000 a year to process green kitchen and garden waste under the existing brown bin service.

“If we kept the service as it is, the impact of reduced recycling credits, and higher gate fees, could see that cost rise to beyond £1million.”

She added: “There are many variables involved which could impact on income and cost, but we hope that once the transition to a subscription garden waste service has settled down, it will be a cost neutral.

“We recognise that there may be future changes to the processing gate fee, while the level of take-up, tonnage collected and operational costs may also differ from what we predicted.

“With that in mind we are committed to reviewing the level of charge during the next three years, during which time we believe we will have an accurate picture of the costs and revenue from the service.”