Council Tax and Waste Collection

Normally I don’t pay too much attention to my waste collection at home, but I noticed this week that my recycling bin was getting full and I had a sort through it. There’s stuff in there from Christmas and today is Saturday 29th January, therefore it hasn’t been emptied for 5 weeks, and as of Monday, the stuff in there will be into its sixth week of residence.

Where I live, the waste is collected by the local authority (LA), in this case, Canterbury City Council. There are three types that they expect you to sort it into; General, Recycling and Garden. Now, I have only lived where I do for a year or two and my experience is that the General and Recycling and collected on a Tuesday, alternating weekly, and that the Garden waste is collected during the spring, summer and autumn months alongside the Recycling.

Knowing when your collection is can be fairly important as the convention appears to be that you put the correct bin for that weeks collection type kerbside and the operatives empty it. Sometimes they even replace it on your property after emptying. On the occasions when I have forgotten to put the bin out over the last year, often the operative has got it themselves, emptied it, and replaced it, which is kind and gratefully received.

Over the Christmas period the collections go out of whack when the collection day falls on a bank holiday or whatever, and how the the individual LA deals with this varies wildly. My last one seemed to be governed by the alignment of the stars and the tides. Well, that’s how it appeared to me.

I’ll be honest. I’ve not put my bins out since Christmas. Any of them. I normally use what my neighbours are doing as a measure of what I should be doing and on my Tuesday mornings before work, I have a look up and down the road, see what bins are out and copy. This has been a great guide over the last year, but over the last month it looks like my neighbours are as clueless as I am – it’s utter disarray out there. Less than half the bins are out, and the ones that are, are mixed. Maybe they use the same process for selecting which bin to put out as I do, in which case we are all screwed. At this point, as it is a dark and cold early morning in January I’ve just given up on deliberating which bin to put kerbside and go to work.

As I mentioned before, I don’t pay too much attention to this stuff, all the time that it is trundling along, mostly working, that’s fine by me. No investigation or energy is required. Perfect. I mean, I’m so out of the loop with this stuff which is a good sign, right? It’s only when stuff doesn’t work that it commands my attention, so I started looking at the situation. I was unaware that the LA had a pretty good web site with a good section covering waste, whereby if you supply your address, they can tell you the time and date of the last collection, and the date for the next one. These government sites have got a lot better since I last checked; they used to be static sites that were never updated…. I know, I’ve been living under a rock.

Now, generally I don’t generate a lot of domestic waste, in fact, I generate considerably less than the majority of people I know. This isn’t an opportunity for some irritating virtue signalling, the reason for my sharing this point is that it means that I am extremely fortunate, after 5 weeks without a recycling collection, to not be drowning in my own waste.

My General waste looks like it has been collected, so I am thinking that the crews that collect General and Recycling are different, and the General guys are far more forgiving and benevolent regards collections and placement of bins.

All of this got me thinking, we as a society are actually drowning in our own waste, we over consume, we buy, we throw, we buy again. Because we can. There is no incentive for reducing the amount of waste that we generate…..

The funding for my waste collection comes from my Council Tax (CT) bill. I currently pay £1,508 per year to Canterbury City Council for CT. There is nothing that I can find on their website that shows how much of that money goes on waste collection and management. I’ve done a quick search and there are reports from the last decade that estimate as much as a third (approximately £500) would be spent on this based upon Freedom of Information requests (FOI’s) looking at this question on a national basis. That is a heck of a lot of money.

Now, wouldn’t it be great if I generated less waste, and paid less? That would make sense, right?

Hold these figures in your head and have a look at my email to my LA this evening;

Hi There

My blue cardboard and glass recycling bin has not been collected since before Christmas.

I’ve just visited your website regarding future waste collection dates and past collection dates and times, and I am impressed. I was unaware that you made this information available and if it is as accurate as it shows, then I am really impressed.

I think part of the issue with my bins not being collected is not knowing when the collection was to put them roadside as it got out of step over the festive period; there was no collection on the usual days (which I put them out for) and looking at the placing of the bins on my road during this period, it sure confused my neighbours too. I think it still does confuse some of them even now.

I am guessing that the operative that collects the bins isn’t allowed to access my property if my bin is not by the road? It’s just three steps inside the boundary and just a step from the roadside and is easily accessible, so it’s surely got to be that you don’t allow them to do it, right?

Regards the missed collections, do I get a refund/rebate for this?
If you are able to divide down my annual waste collection charge to a weekly value and credit me back for the missed weeks, I will have no issues whatsoever. I will however be disappointed if you insist on charging me when no transaction has taken place.

At my work, I get the bins collected each week and they never miss a week, and I only pay per collection. My bin size is 1100ltr which is approximately 12-15 black bags up to 90kg. Per collection I get charged £15.00 plus VAT. I could probably fit at least five of your blue bins in there, so that would make my cost per bin approximately £3.00 each using my work costs. One bin a week (one week black, the next one blue, alternating), would be £156 per year. That would mean a collection up to every five weeks, which is a couple of weeks less than I will be up to with you when you next get the blue bins on 8th February.

I could even go a step further and see if my neighbours wanted to get involved, I live in a cul-de-sac, so I could organise the waste collection for the 14 houses.

I reckon I could do all 14 houses for £45.00 plus VAT per week, which is £2340.00 per year. This would also leave some spare capacity for an extra bin each week, something that you don’t allow for.

How much do I get charged for waste removal per year please? I cannot seem to find that data on your website. Is there a facility to opt out of your waste service and make my own arrangements if the company that collects from my workplace is cheaper?

Thanks in advance.

You can see where I am going with this. 14 houses in my road multiplied by the rough calculation for my waste cost comes in around £7000 for the LA to undertake, I could get it for £2340 plus VAT, which is around £2808. A potential saving of over £4000. Nearly £300 per household, per year.

If the LA are not able to accommodate this, surely they should be making provision for not charging for missed/not required collections, if not on fairness grounds, on environmental ones? Incentivisation of waste reduction can only be a good thing, surely?

I’ll update with the response when it is received.

UPDATE 31/01/22 – Response received to my email from a Canenco Helpdesk stating

Good afternoon

I will pass your correspondence directly to Canterbury City Council.

Kind regards”

This is a little awkward as a quick search reveals that Canenco is the short name for Canterbury Environment Company which is a private limited company owned by Canterbury City Council. I was unaware of its existence until just now. More research required and a response is still outstanding.