May 10, 2022 6.00 pm This story is over 18 months old

New environment law leaves council struggling to find extra £5m

Free bin collections actually have a cost

New environmental laws could leave councils with a huge bill of up to £5million per year.

The Environment Act will require local authorities to improve their recycling and waste collection over the next few years.

The potential costs are so worrying that South Kesteven District Council are writing to the government to ask whether funding will be given to meet the new burdens.

The act is likely to require councils to offer free garden and food waste collections, but a councillor told the Environment Scrutiny Panel that central government needed to get real about the costs.

Councillor Mark Whittington said: “If we have to collect garden waste as a statutory service, we will see costs more than doubled and lost income. That could cost us in the region of £2 million.

“Looking at the food waste collection, purchasing vehicles could cost another couple of million.

“It’s difficult to look at the specific figures at the moment, but to implement the Environment Act could cost us £3-£5 million. We just don’t know at the moment.

“Given that we have an annual budget of £15 million, this could be a 25% increase on top of that.

“The only way to meet this is funding from the government. With the best will in the world, there is no way to afford it otherwise.

SKDC fears green waste collections could cost £2million | Photo: North East Lincolnshire Council

“What services would we have to cut to do it otherwise?

“The government needs to get real on this and give us an indication of where the money is coming from.”

He added that problems were likely to be replicated across Lincolnshire, saying: “Other districts share the same concerns.”

It was agreed that Councillor Whittington should write to the Secretary of State for the Environment, George Eustice, to ask for clarity.

The Environment Act was hailed as landmark achievement when it was passed in November last year.

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is currently carrying out public consultations into how the waste collection aspects of it will be implemented.

Councils could be forced to buy new waste collection vehicles and remove fees as a result.

A pilot food waste collection scheme in South Kesteven already saw the authority spend tens of thousands of pounds on vehicles.

“It wasn’t just the revenue cost of the scheme, it was the fact that we had to purchase two second-hand vehicles to do it,” Councillor Whittington added.

“In the last financial year, they cost £70,000 to keep on the road.

“The reason why we purchased second-hand was we expected the food waste scheme to be going national within three to four years, and bought the second-hand vehicles to see us through.”

It is estimated continued weekly food waste collections would cost £952,000 to £1,301,000 every year for the district, which could rise as petrol prices increase.

The trial saw more than 1,100 tonnes collected from South Kesteven households over four years.

This was taken to an anaerobic digestion plant where it was turned into biogas, rather than end up in a landfill.

The trial came to an end earlier this year while the public consultation decides whether it should be made mandatory.