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Brown bins in East Herts: Stortford MP Julie Marson asks Government to clarify garden and food waste collection rules

Bishop’s Stortford’s MP has asked the Government to clarify refuse rules after East Herts Council introduced charges for its garden waste collections.

Conservative Julie Marson submitted two linked questions to Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary George Eustice.

She wanted to know what steps his department was taking to ensure local authorities were not suspending the collection of food scraps with garden waste if those councils charged for garden waste.

Julie Marson MP - Hertford and Stortford. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (45479584)
Julie Marson MP - Hertford and Stortford. .Pic: Vikki Lince. (45479584)

From April 1, residents of East Herts must pay £49 a year to have their brown bin containing garden waste collected. Previously the service was free and householders were allowed to add food to the bin, but now only grass and hedge cuttings, leaves, flowers, prunings, twigs, small branches and fallen fruit are allowed.

The district council expects to introduce a separate food collection service in 2023, but meanwhile, it is directing residents to put scraps in their black bins with other household refuse – although, confusingly, it is also telling them that if their brown bins contain food waste they will still be collected.

Rebecca Pow, the rural affairs and biosecurity minister, told Mrs Marson: “Under new measures in the Environment Bill [currently making its way through the parliamentary legislative process], local authorities will be required to arrange for the collection of a core set of recyclable waste streams from households, which will include food and garden waste.

EHDC Brown Residential Garden Waste recycling bin. .Pic Vikki Lince. (45479647)
EHDC Brown Residential Garden Waste recycling bin. .Pic Vikki Lince. (45479647)

“Under these new requirements, food waste must be collected at least once a week and both food waste and garden waste must always be collected separately from the dry recyclable waste streams and residual waste.”

She was clear: “The food waste and garden waste streams should be collected separately from each other unless it is not technically or economically practicable or there is no significant environmental benefit in doing so.”

With regards to charging, Ms Pow, who is the Conservative MP for Taunton Deane in Somerset, said existing legislation meant local authorities could recover “a reasonable charge” for the collection of garden waste.

However, she added: “As part of the upcoming consultation, we will be seeking further views on whether local authorities should be able to charge for the collection of garden waste, or whether a free minimum collection service should be provided.

Rebecca Pow MP (45479780)
Rebecca Pow MP (45479780)

“Irrespective of the outcome of this, the requirement on local authorities to collect food waste at least once a week will mean that there will be no option for local authorities to suspend the collection of food waste under any circumstances, including where food waste and garden waste are collected together.”

East Herts has introduced the £49 charge, already levied by around 60% of other councils including Uttlesford, to help bridge a growing budget gap. The authority has also backed a campaign to reduce food waste, arguing that around 70% of what is binned is still edible.

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