LESS than half the residents who currently qualify to have their garden waste collected by the council are expected to sign up for the new scheme when the £25-a-year charge comes into force.
The council is predicting 46 per cent of 124,000 eligible households will opt in to the collection service when the charge is introduced in July – meaning almost 67,000 homes will decide not to pay it.
The forecast has prompted renewed fears of an increase in fly-tipping from people just dumping their garden waste and more garden rubbish being put in general household waste bins, increasing the volume of refuse going to landfill.
Senior Conservative councillor Jason Rust said: “I do have a concern about fly-tipping and people putting their garden waste in their general household waste which will be picked up without the £25 charge.”
And he demanded to know what steps were being taken to improve the recycling facilities.
“If it is only 46 per cent, the rest are not losing their garden. The assumption would be they are taking their garden refuse to the recycling centre themselves, so we need to make sure they have the capacity.”
Cllr Rust, who represents Colinton/Fairmilehead, also sees potential trouble ahead.
“There was a problem recently in Colinton Mains where garden waste was sitting for about a fortnight beyond collection day. If people are paying directly for the service through this new scheme, I think there will be even more concern if it’s not functioning properly – and they have said there will be no refunds for missed collections.”
And he warns more publicity is needed to raise awareness of the new system.
“This is due to start in July. There is a need for the council to be giving the public information and getting it out to residents. Time is of the essence in communicating what is a completely new system and allowing people to consider whether they want to participate.”
Green environment spokesman Steve Burgess said the council’s own estimates meant half the garden waste currently being collected could now end up being dumped in general waste bins and going to landfill rather than being recycled.
“Green councillors do not support charging for garden waste uplifts because we really don’t think the scheme is workable.
“The council will raise some revenue from those residents who are willing to pay for their garden waste collection but this will be offset by the added costs of increased tonnage going to landfill. Also there’s the loss of a reusable material that could be composted and used for growing.”
The council said its 46 per cent forecast was based on the uptake when other councils introduced charges.
Environment vice-convener Karen Doran added: “Research demonstrated that households who did not opt in to garden waste collections made use of alternative recycling options, such as home composting or household recycling centres.
“We are establishing a registration process for those wishing to use the service, and will be in touch with residents.”