Disposing of large household goods such as old fridges or mattresses is a domestic chore that few relish, given their awkward size and weight.
Now research has revealed the extent of the “confusing” postcode lottery Scots face in terms of council charges whenever they arrange for uplifts of such bulky items by their local authority.
While households in Glasgow enjoy free collections by the city council, residents in Angus must pay £51.20 if they have more than four items requiring uplift.
Edinburgh City Council will collect up to ten large household items, charging £5 per item. In South Ayrshire, a single item needing collected will set you back £20, with each additional item costing £2.50. In West Lothian, residents can have up to five items uplifted for a flat fee of £25.
Only four councils in Scotland – Glasgow, South Lanarkshire, North Lanarkshire, and Falkirk – do not charge residents for at least one uplift of bulky items each year.
With local authorities across the country facing tough choices on spending due to swinging budget cuts, there are fears that charges will only increase despite them also facing strict targets on how much household waste is recycled.
The wide disparities in what local authorities charge across the UK for bulky uplifts was revealed in research by the BBC Shared Data Unit.
Ian Williams, professor of applied environmental science at the University of Southampton, said: “I don’t think there is any doubt that the system is confusing, but the problem is that local authorities will have different infrastructures.
“Councils in built-up, highly populated areas are likely to have a high number of occupants per unit area of land … In a relatively affluent area, you are likely to have a lower density population and hence fewer occupants per square mile. Therefore a council could be swamped by requests for bulky waste collection in one place and have an easier time of it in another.”
A spokesman for South Ayrshire Council said services in Scotland could not be compared like-for-like and insisted the local authority provided “best value” for residents.
“The statistics show that 19 other Scottish councils charge more than us for the collection of one bulky item,” he said.
“Our bulky uplift service remains good value and we have worked tirelessly to keep the costs low. We also have recycling centres in prime locations for householders to take bigger items free of charge.”
An Angus Council spokesman said: “Charges reflect the costs we incur in carrying out special uplifts, including staff, vehicles and waste disposal costs. We continuously monitor the situation and are satisfied that the charge is appropriately set with aim of recovering our costs.”
The British Heart Foundation, one of several UK charities which resell unwanted furniture and white goods, said householders should not assume that only local authorities would uplift bulky items.
“It’s a massive shame because there is obviously a percentage of items that go to landfill that could absolutely be reused,” said Karen O’Donoghue, head of retail partnerships at the charity.