Residents in for a rubbish surprise after councils hike charges

blue garbage bag with trash isolated on white
blue garbage bag with trash isolated on white

Councils aren't satisfied with dramatically cutting their waste collection services - leaving you with rotting rubbish for the best part of a month. Now, they have found another way to squeeze cash out of people who need to get rid of unwanted junk - by changing the rules at recycling centres. There are a number of ways that these changes could catch you out - and cost you a small fortune.

Various councils are dealing with budget cuts in different ways. Some are introducing charges for certain vehicles visiting the council tip, others are charging for certain kinds of waste, and some are restricting opening hours - making it difficult for residents to get there.

The charges

Dumping DIY waste will now cost you money in a large number of sites - including Basingstoke and North Somerset. In Basingstoke, you will have to pay £10 per sheet of plasterboard, and £2.50 for a 30 litre bag of rubble, bricks or tiles.

In Surrey, meanwhile, there are charges for anything considered 'non-household waste'. You get to dump one bag for free, and then you'll be charged £4 per bag or item - or £50 for a carload. This includes everything from vehicle tyres to soil and stones.

The paperwork has increased too, so that in some areas you need to apply for a permit if you hire a van to take waste to the tip. In other cases you need a permit even if you just take the car.

The problem

While these changes are annoying, there's the risk they could spark even bigger - and more expensive - problems. There will be plenty of people for whom the reduced opening hours or increased paperwork mean they cannot get to the tip, and will need to pay someone to take their rubbish away. This opens them up to a serious risk of being taken for a ride by rogue traders - who charge to pick up rubbish, and then fly-tip

If you use an unlicensed operator to take care of your waste, then if they dump that waste illegally, there's a real risk it is traced back to you. Councils are facing increased issues with fly-tipping, so are stepping up their investigations - with more CCTV at strategic spots and even DNA testing of the rubbish left behind.

Despite the fact you are unlikely to have a clue that the person you paid was going to dump your rubbish, if you didn't check their credentials and ensure they were licensed, you could face a hefty fine. To protect yourself, you need to check they are listed as licensed carriers on the government's website.

The alternatives

If the tip is out of the question, you need to consider the alternatives carefully.

The council collection service still works out as more expensive than paying dump your items at the tip, with minimum collection charges, additional charges for collecting from inside the building, and charges for bulky items. You can easily spend far in excess of £100 paying someone to take your items away.

If you have lots of waste to get rid of, therefore, you might be best hiring a skip or a Hippobag (which is a more flexible alternative). The very small skips start at around £60 and take about 25 bin bags of stuff - which is far cheaper than a charge of £4 per bag. You could even club together with the neighbours, and assuming you have 25 bin bags worth of stuff each, you could get a skip to suit eight of you - for around £300.

If the skip is going in the road, you'll have to add the cost of a permit on top, but it may still work out cheaper, and more convenient, than going to the tip.