By Alex Murray, Community Coordinator for Collect Your Old Bed
In these days of modern recycling and effective council collection arrangements, we’d like to think we’ve moved on from the days when stained old mattresses lay dumped and discarded on street corners. However, since 1 April 2014, more local councils across the UK announced plans to join those already charging their communities for bulky waste collection, leading to increased concern about fly-tipping in areas where disposal is needed, but can’t be afforded at local council rates.
From Free Collection to Fee Collection – it’s no April Fool!
There’s no standardisation of costs for bulky item removal across the UK. Some councils which have been charging for a considerable time already put their prices up on the 1st April, whilst others, such as Luton council have replaced their free service with a £25 charge for up to three items. Similarly, Wychavon District Council moved from offering a generous free collection service (two collections per year, per household) to a fee-required collection service. Other councils, such as Eastbourne, have expensive charges of £50 for up to 3 items, in order to subsidise continued free collection for local pensioners.
What is bulky?
The term bulky item tends to cover those large household items which households may have trouble taking to local landfill themselves. These include mainly furniture items such as:
- Three piece suites, sofas and armchairs
- Shelving units
- Dining tables and chairs
- Bulky bedroom furniture such as wardrobes and dressing tables
- Electrical appliances such as fridges, freezers and washing machines. Most councils offer completely separate tariffs for the collection and disposal of electrical items.
Big costs for bulky items
The costs for removal vary considerably between councils, based upon priorities, available resource and things like the sprawl of the households they serve, and therefore fuel costs to reach them. Understandably charges tend to be slightly higher in more rural areas, but by offering more items to be removed for the money can encourage neighbours to work together and cut costs for themselves and the councils.
For example, in the high peaks area of Derbyshire, the minimum cost for bulky item removal is £22 for up to 5 items, whilst in Wychavon the minimum cost is £19 for pick up and disposal of up to two bulky items only.
Some residents and their local politicians have expressed concern where councils are now charging for bulky item removal, fearing a resurgence of fly-tipping, the careless dumping of items in residential areas. In many cases this may be the case but fly-tipping nationally does not appear to be on the increase at present.
However, for others, these new fees could end up benefiting many, including those households looking to dispose of their items, as where responsible (but low-income) households might previously have taken up free council collection, they may now seek free alternatives which fit ethical environmental and communal codes, such as:
Charity Furniture Shops
More and more charities, such as the British Heart Foundation and many local hospices and their related charities now have charity shops which deal solely in furniture donations. As such, they offer a free collection service for suitable items and allow households to recycle their unwanted bulky items in a charitable as well as environmentally-friendly way.
Community Charity Collections
Similar to the charity collection services where your donated item ends up raising funds for the charity are the charity collection services where your donated item is passed on to a family or individual in need. Many charities working with the homeless and disadvantaged arrange free collections and pass on items straight to families who are starting from scratch to create a home.
Freegle / Freecycle
Already a hit in the UK, Freegle is a nationwide group-based method for passing on a variety of household and garden items to others who might benefit from them. It works at local community levels to put people offering items as available in touch with those needing them or by posting a request for items needed and seeing if anyone has one to give away.
Private Collection Companies
Many local areas also offer a growing number of private companies who run collection services for those bulky household items; including specialist collection companies for particular items, such as Collect Your Old Bed a newly formed business focused on the safe disposal of mattresses and bed frames or high street companies that will collect your old appliances to recycle when they deliver the new one.
Despite the obvious jokes about the 1st April launch of fees for councils’ bulk item collections across the UK, there’s a sense of black humour about whether council-run schemes will prove viable in the long-term and how the new costs will affect local households and communities in terms of the choices they make, particularly with such ready access to free and eco-friendly alternatives.
by Alex Murray, Community Coordinator for Collect Your Old Bed