Bedfordshire pauses food waste collections to clear garden refuse backlog

Central Bedfordshire Council has announced that it will be resuming garden waste collections in October, redeploying drivers from within the food waste service.

The change comes after a build-up in garden waste accumulated throughout the region, caused by national HGV driver shortages. The refuse will be collected between 18 October and 30 October, with food waste acquisition being put on pause during this two-week window in order to facilitate the cleanup of surplus green waste.

Waste collectionThe council is asking residents to place either their garden waste bins or council-issued bags on the kerbside in place of their food waste bins. This is to be done on days which residents would usually have their recycling collected.

Food waste should continue to be put out as normal, the council urges; it suggests that locals double-bag this waste in order to reduce odours. If residents feel unable to wait until the return of food waste collections, it is recommended that they either consider home composting or disposing of produce in their household waste bin. The council has subsidised their 220-litre compost bins - charging £16.50 plus an additional £5.99 delivery charge - in order to promote home composting. It stressed that fruit and vegetable food waste, as well as tea bags and coffee grounds, can all be placed in the bins, provided they have not come into contact with meat produce.

In addition to the reintroduction of garden waste collections, in order to help residents manage their refuse, slots will no longer have to be booked at Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) within the region from 27 September – these will be open seven days a week from 9am to 5pm, including bank holidays. Identification will need to be provided in order for locals to use the HWRCs, with trade and business waste allocated to the Thorn Turn tidy tip due to it being a paid service. The previous van, trade or business permit scheme will also be reintroduced from 27 September.

Central Bedfordshire Council does not traditionally charge for garden waste collections, in spite of the fact that many councils charge an additional fee due to the service not being a legal requirement of regional governing bodies. However, it seems unlikely that the council will be able to resume garden waste collections without incurring additional costs. This is because the HGV driver shortage is part of a national issue that is not able to be swiftly or simply fixed – the council may need to deploy agency drivers, which wield an extra price tag. Whilst it may seem as if ‘no service means no cost’, the council states, this is not necessarily going to be the case.

Councillor Ian Dalgarno, Executive Member for Community Services, commented: “We are really pleased to be able to confirm that we will be collecting the garden waste bins or bags.

“We are sorry that our usual, reliable service has been affected by the national driver shortage – and we thank residents for their patience during this difficult time. We would still like to encourage residents to look at alternative ways to manage their garden waste – such as taking up our offer of a subsidised home composting bin, where possible or using one our four tidy tips, where we have reinstated the permit system and booking is no longer required.”

FCC Environment Operations Director, Steve Longdon, said: “All our staff have worked tirelessly throughout the Covid-19 pandemic to maintain our services and ensure household recycling and waste continued to be collected but, as we return to normality, the sector is facing new challenges.  

“LGV one and two drivers are essential for the recycling and waste sector, and we are committed to doing everything we can to fill our driver vacancies to continue to play our part in protecting public health and the environment, as well as the UK’s green economic recovery and this firmly remains our focus in Central Bedfordshire so we can resume services as soon as we are able.”