Budget 2015/16: Big saving made from brown bin charges, but at what cost?

Peterborough City Council's leaflet on the changes to the brown bin collection service across the city in 2014.
Peterborough City Council's leaflet on the changes to the brown bin collection service across the city in 2014.
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The controversial idea to make residents pay to use a brown bin has resulted in over £800,000 going back into the Peterborough City Council coffers.

The money is helping to tackle a huge budget deficit, but more waste is being placed incorrectly and there are concerns over possible increased fly-tipping. Joel Lamy reports:

Consequences of the brown bin charges are starting to be realised with Peterborough residents now placing more of their waste in the wrong bins.

Following controversial and unpopular charges introduced last May, an extra 1,575 tonnes of garden waste has gone into black bins over the following five months.

This problem has cost an additional £118,000 to sort out although Peterborough City Council set aside £180,000 in its budget to cover for this as it expected the issue to arise.

In total, over 60 per cent of waste found in black bins could be placed in containers used for recyclable or compostable waste.

The council, though, has saved the full £804,000 which it had budgeted for in 2014/15 after introducing the brown bin charges which so far 19,821 households have signed up for.

Councillor Gavin Elsey, cabinet member for street scene, waste management and communications, answered questions from the council’s Sustainable, Growth and Environment Capital Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday evening.

Cllr Elsey said: “There has been more waste in black bins but this has not been dramatic. Fly-tipping has not increased by any significant amount.

“The main cause for concern is 60 per cent of black bin items are items which should be recycled. This problem could get worse.

“If residents use the right bins for the right waste we could save £500,000.”

The brown bin service cost residents between £36 and £39 depending on when they signed up for it.

The council’s environmentally-friendly agenda is being pursued through its ‘Clean and Green’ campaign which is expected to save £55,000 in the coming year.

New items can also be recycled including plastic tubs, trays, foil and carrier bags.

Councillors, though, were interested to see what more could be done to tackle incorrect waste disposal.

Cllr Chris Harper highlighted concerns that an extra 343 tonnes of food have been put in black bins rather grey food caddies which require different bags to be placed inside them.

He said: “This is a hot topic. We are looking at the wrong thing [by focussing on brown bin charges].”

Cllr Yasmeen Maqbool said: “We need to focus on caddies. Language barriers are an issue. We have communities who do not understant what goes in each bin.”

Cllr John Fox added: “Education is very important. It’s a difficult job and I accept that some people cannot understand what can go in the bins.”

In response, Cllr Elsey admitted that people would not use their food caddies more unless it was made a “no brainer” for them.

He said: “We need to make it easy as possible for people to dispose of their food waste.”

The idea of not removing people’s rubbish if they put their food waste in black bins rather than caddies is not something the council is pursuing.

However, Biogen, who dispose of the council’s waste, has technology which can remove food from its packing before disposing of them.

The council is waiting to hear back from a study to see if this can be introduced.

Discussing the brown bin charges, Cllr Elsey added: “To suggest this has been a success is a little disingenuous as no-one wanted to introduce a charge in the first place.

“The reality is with the deficit we had no choice. But we have hit our targets and mitigated our additional cost.”

Fears over fly-tipping were also brought up at Tuesday’s meeting. Cllr Nick Thulbourn disputed the claim fly-tipping was not more of a problem following the brown bin charges.

He said he had heard of people throwing waste behind their fence.

However, Dominic Hudson, strategic paprtnership manager at the council, said: “We were prepared for and expecting a significant volume of fly-tipping but we are not seeing it.”


Uncertain future for Peterborough cultural services as city council seek £25 million in savings.

Budget 2015/16: No Peterborough libraries to shut.

Council defends Peterborough’s brown bin collection charges, 10 April 2014.

Peterborough City Council sorry over brown bins error, 22 May.

More about the Garden waste/brown bin collections at peterborough.gov.uk/brownbins

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