Wales

The bulky charges for waste disposal by Welsh councils

Photo of council staff collecting old mattresses Image copyright Carmarthenshire County Council
Image caption Old mattresses are amongst the hardest items to dispose of legally

If you want your council to get rid of an old mattress in three Welsh counties it would be free - but others could charge up to £42.50.

That is the disparity in councils' charges for collecting what is termed bulky waste, revealed by BBC research.

Caerphilly, Cardiff and Conwy would pick up that lumpy mattress for free, with Wrexham charging the most in Wales.

But one campaigner said almost all items can be recycled - for free.

Washing machines, mattresses, sofas - anything that will not fit in a bin bag - and needs collecting separately are classed as bulky waste.

Charges levied by half of Wales' 22 councils are in the £15 to £25 range and most of those will take up to three items.

But Wrexham's minimum bulky waste collection charge is £42.50, although the council will take up to eight items for that price, bringing down the individual charge.

The council argues that the fee is cost-effective when compared to the commercial sector, and said bulky items can also be dropped at its recycling centre, or collected on 'neighbourhood environment days'.

In neighbouring Flintshire the charge is similar, coming in at £40 for up to five items, and Ceredigion is just 50p cheaper than Wrexham at £42 for up to six pieces of bulky waste.

Image copyright Denbighshire County Council
Image caption 2,700kg of rubbish was collected from Rhyl's streets in just one week

Denbighshire is the cheapest at £5, but that is for one item. The council still had to spend £1,200 in the summer collecting dumped waste in Rhyl West ward.

Conwy council will collect one item for free, but only once a year.

Pembrokeshire saw its bulk collections plummet when it put up its charge to £40 in 2015 - and watched collections rocket again when it cut the cost to £20 last April.

Richard Brown, Pembrokeshire's environment director also says fly-tipping increased.

Image caption Pembrokeshire's Richard Brown - 'We recognised there was a problem'

"The higher price actually started to encourage some fairly unsavoury characters into offering collection services with a van or trailer. They'd go to people's houses, they'd take the rubbish and for £40 they were just going away and fly-tipping it.

"So although it's costing us slightly more to deliver the service, it means we're not getting the same amount of fly-tipping, it's undercut that illegal market," he said.

Carmarthenshire wants £25 for collecting three items - but officials argue that does not cover the costs of picking up an item and disposing of it.

"We have not increased the bulky waste charge for a number of years as we try to keep the service charge as low as possible in order that it is accessible to all Carmarthenshire residents," said councillor Hazel Evans.

The county also hosts "waste amnesties" in towns to combat fly-tipping, particularly in the rural north where there are no recycling centres nearby.

Image caption Cardiff council will collect mattresses and certain other items for free

But Liz Gillingan argued that people can get rid of almost all their items for free - and without resorting to council services.

She said she was "fed up of going for a lovely walk and seeing piles of rubbish".

More than 10 years ago, she set-up the Carmarthenshire FreeRecycle group, where unwanted items can be offered to others.

Image caption Recycling champion Liz Gillingan also helps keep thousands of books out of landfill

The group has 2,235 members, stretching into neighbouring counties.

"Everyone is into thinking that the old stuff is better. People haven't got the money," she said.

"What's the point of making more waste?"

It has led to some interesting challenges for the 'freecycle' champion - including a giant unwanted cabinet and an old caravan.

"The wall unit was massive. It had failed to sell at auction and dominated our warehouse. But in the end it went to someone as garage storage," she said.

When she advertised the old caravan for a friend she was shocked to get 400 emails. Apparently, they are in demand as garden or chicken sheds.

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