Derby City Council

Will the Council’s new/old Brown Bin scheme be another “Green Elephant”?

The Conservative administration will be formally agreeing their plans, this week,  to re-introduce a 52 week free Brown Bin collection of garden and food waste.  This is, effectively, a complete reversal of the previous Council’s chargeable bin scheme which was implemented in order to make savings of £1million per year.

The chargeable scheme didn’t deliver the cost reductions as the underlying assumptions were unrealistic. This was highlighted in a May 2017 Derby News article “Council’s ‘Brown Bin tax’ scheme – a £1m failure!”

Why was it a failure?

The cost of disposal is a key part of the equation. In simple terms (and  the rates will flex over time)

  • Disposing of garden and food waste in a brown bin (segregated) costs £50 / tonne to the Council
  • Disposing of garden and food waste in a black bin (unsegregated) costs £100 / tonne to the Council

Under the original free, 52 week scheme, the Council collected 20,000 tonnes of garden and food waste from the City’s 88,000 households – disposed of at £50/tonne

The assumption in the chargeable Brown Bin scheme, for 32 weeks per year, only, was that:

  • 20,000 households would join the scheme ( it was approx 13,000)
  • 7200 tonnes of garden waste would be collected in a brown bin ( it was approx 3500 tonnes)
  • 5600 tonnes of garden/food waste would be composted by residents in their own garden ( most if not all was put in the black bin at a cost of £100/tonne)

The consequence of this was that

  • the whole initiative was, more or less, neutral, financially – not £1m saving
  • 85% of households were not recycling any organic matter
  • 100% of households were not recycling any organic matter for 20 weeks a year
  • 16500 tonnes pa of garden/food waste was disposed of in general land fill, rather than in a cheaper, and more environmentally appropriate way.


It never seemed quite right that the Council was paying double the cost for putting organic waste into a general land fill or, indeed, the Sinfin Incinerator. It never quite captured the public’s imagination or support.

It assumed that there would be a significant behaviour shift to domestic composting – an expectation that was critically flawed and was not backed up by a robust plan.

This recent policy change is an “act of faith” that all households will quickly revert back to using the Brown Bin to its full potential, including food waste. The Cabinet papers have been prudent in the estimation of the uptake ( an additional 11,000 tonnes vs a potential 16,500 tonnes) , but it will need to collect the original 20,000 tonnes to cover the extra costs of the Refuse teams.

Good quality, diverse communication will be essential to ensure full engagement by the public, and to avoid it becoming another  “green elephant”





Categories: Derby City Council

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