Fears Scottish garden bin fees could spark growth of fake grass

Fears have been raised that charges for collections of plant waste could put green-fingered Britons off gardening and reduce recycling rates, as well as sparking an increase in concrete slabs and fake grass.

A woman checks the flowers in her garden

The concerns have emerged as an increasing number of local authorities across Scotland and the UK introduce annual fees for collecting hedge trimmings and grass cuttings in a bid to ease budget shortfalls.

Kerbside collections of garden rubbish are not available in six Scottish regions but are provided free by 20 councils.

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Only six councils north of the Border charge for the service, with costs varying between regions. The most expensive fee is currently £40 a year, in Highland, and the lowest is £25, in Edinburgh.

The average cost across the UK is £31, but some residents in England pay £100 a year for garden bins to be emptied.

The highest charges are in the south-east of the country.

Edinburgh City Council introduced charges a year ago, with more than 68,000 households signing up. The move raises £1.7 million for the capital’s coffers.

Perth and Kinross began its permit system around the same time, with more than half of homes signing up.

Aberdeen City Council announced earlier this year it will follow suit, with an annual charge of £30 that is expected to generate up to £990,000 for the cash-strapped council.

They say fly-tipping has not risen as a result.

Zero Waste Scotland chief executive Iain Gulland highlighted the importance of recycling garden waste, which is turned into compost.

He said: “Capturing this material to transform it into compost is much better for the environment and far preferable to sending it to landfill, where the benefits are lost and the climate warming gas methane is produced as it breaks down.”

Many councils argue that charges are justified.

Martin Tett, environment spokesman for the Local Government Association, said: “Ultimately garden waste collection has to be paid for by someone.

“It’s only fair that those households which have gardens and generate the waste pay for the service.”

Meanwhile, the UK government has been consulting on whether homes in England should receive free garden waste collections in a bid to improve recycling rates.

But critics of fees believe those with a passion for plants are being penalised and could be put off gardening, which benefits people and wildlife.

“UK gardeners are increasingly being punished with a quiet green garden tax which seems to go against every other positive environmental initiative that the UK is trying to promote,” said Anthony O’Sullivan, managing director of the Gardeners Club.

He fears charges could spark a rise in low-maintenance but less eco-friendly gardens based around “decking, patios, concrete and, worse still, plastic artificial grass”.

He added: “Whilst the rest of the world is encouraging us all to reduce our carbon footprints and generally live a better environmental way of life, why are UK councils doing the opposite?”