Council picks up £250,000 bill for picking up Christmas trees

Stuart Collins, Croydon’s Labour council’s lead on keeping our streets clear of fly-tipped rubbish and the man in charge of sloganised T-shirts, could be in for a busy period over the next week or so. Around 100,000 tired, old and used Christmas trees need to be disposed of, and there’s always a chance that a load of them will end up, dumped at the dead of night, on the borough’s street corners, waiting for the magic rubbish elves from Veolia to come along and remove them, and all at public expense.

Dumped Christmas treeBecause that’s what happens when the local authority removes a service, such as bulk waste collection or Christmas tree collection, as a penny-wise and pound-foolish cost-cutting measure.

Councillor Collins and his colleagues, who appear determined to axe free collections of garden waste, would do well to monitor the number of dead Christmas trees that need to be collected from the borough’s streets this month, and the associated costs, and consider what impact the loss of the green garden waste service may have.

Collins, deputy council leader to Tony Newman, and their Labour colleagues were elected in 2014 on a promise to make Croydon the “cleanest and greenest” borough in London. They continue to fall a long way short, while other London councils realise that managed collection of recyclable materials can save money, and even make some cash. In Croydon, the council’s failure to provide a kerbside Christmas tree collection could be costing the borough nearly £250,000 a year in landfill charges, plus lost income.

Inside Croydon has covered this issue over five years. It is a year to the day since we wrote that this Labour council’s pursuit of a Tory policy “… ends up being costly for Council Tax-payers, is ineffectual and does little to benefit the environment. It also means that Newman’s Croydon remains a long way behind other, Labour-run councils from being the ‘cleanest and greenest’ in London.”

For the traditionalists and superstitious, this Tuesday, January 5, represents Twelfth Night, when all seasonal decorations, including the tree, must be taken down or the household risks some dire ill-fortune for the rest of the year.

One Addiscombe business is looking to turn the council’s abandonment of the tree collection service to their own good fortune, cashing in by offering to collection unwanted Christmas trees for a charge of £10 or more a time.

The borough’s burghers expect everyone to haul their old tree to designated collection centres, and all before next weekend.

Stuart Collins: head of T-shirts

Stuart Collins: head of T-shirts and slogans

Goodness knows what Croydon Treecycle’s business plan is for the other 11 months of the year, but if they manage to engage with just 1 in 40 of the borough’s households to take up their service, they will be turning over more than £25,000 before February 1. “This time next year, Rodders, we’ll be millionaires”, no one from Croydon Treecycle has ever said.

What Croydon Treecycle do say is, “Around 11,000 Christmas trees are dropped off at the council’s designated tree collection points each year, but this likely represents only 10 per cent of the number of ‘real’ Christmas trees in the borough. The other 90 per cent  of trees will go to landfill, with each tree costing the council around £2.50 in fees and landfill taxes.”

In total, that could amount to an unnecessary bill for Croydon Council Tax-payers of nearly £250,000.

Treecycle highlight that Croydon householders are usually very good – above London average, at least – at recycling household waste. But while household recycling rates in Croydon are more than 40 per cent, the Christmas tree recycling rate at 10 per cent is poor.

“This compares very poorly with neighbouring Lambeth, where 85 tons of trees were recycled in 2013,” Treecycle say. “Of course, Lambeth operates a kerbside tree collection service, and this is where Croydon Treecycle believes the difference lies.

Getting your old tree to a council recycling centre is easier said than done

Getting your old tree to a council recycling centre is easier said than done

“Croydon Council provides 18 tree collection points around the borough, but expect you to get your Christmas tree there yourself. If you own a car, this means stuffing the tree into the boot or back seat, risking scratches to yourself and your car’s paintwork, pine needles everywhere, and potentially releasing mould spores into the car environment. Also, consider the environmental impact of one car journey per tree.”

Treecycle highlight the idiocy of the council’s policy for those one-third of Croydon households who do not own a car: have you ever considered taking the old Christmas tree on the bus or tram to the nearest council recycling centre? No, nor us.

“For Fairfield residents, a trip from central Croydon to the Oaks Road/ Coombe Road collection point would mean enjoying a tram ride with your tree, followed by 20 minutes of hauling on foot. Good luck with that,” Treeycle say.

“The lack of a kerbside collection acts as a barrier to residents’ usual inclination to recycle, so Croydon Treecycle is offering a low-cost collection service. For just £10, Croydon residents can book to have their tree collected from outside their home. No mess, no fuss.”

Makes you wonder: if the council, with its greater resources and facility for publicity, were to offer such a service, even for £5 per tree, what impact it might have on the borough’s budgets, both is saving land-fill fees and income from the use of the chipped trees as mulch for local gardeners and what’s left of the parks department.

For now, those commercial possibilities are being exploited by the private sector. Croydon Treecycle is registered with the Environment Agency as a waste carrier and is running services on residents’ usual recycling days. If you’d prefer a collection on an alternative day, this can be arranged for an additional fee.

Trees are taken to wood chipping facilities in the south of the borough where they are turned into compost, which will later promote further organic growth and further carbon capture. Chipping and mulching a Christmas tree reduces by 80 per cent the carbon footprint of the same tree in landfill Treecycle claim.

For more information on the Treecycle service, visit their website here, email or phone 0800 689 0974.

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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1 Response to Council picks up £250,000 bill for picking up Christmas trees

  1. blath8 says:

    Two sad, unloved, discarded trees in the grounds of the Minster Church ….. two more on Harrison’s rise, another along Roman Way close to Cranmer St. More still languishing in people’s gardens, at least 3 in 2 short streets beside the Minster.

    There are cultures in this world that have no idea about Christmas and this odd phenomenon of cutting down healthy trees (that our race needs by the way, to help counter other daft things the human race is doing, like spewing fumes and toxins into the air that we need to breathe …). What on earth would they conclude about our ‘culture’?

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