A free Christmas tree collection service across a Kent district is facing the chop under council plans.
Residents under Canterbury City Council have, until now, been the only ones in the county to be offered complimentary pick-ups, but the authority is considering axing the scheme in the name of climate change.
Traditionally, people across Canterbury, Herne Bay and Whitstable have had their festive firs collected during a two-week period in the new year.
But the council says the additional journeys and extra fuel needed for the drive-by service are having “an impact on the environment”.
Speaking at a cabinet meeting, Cllr Charlotte Cornell (Lab) – the member for waste and recycling – says the council will consult on the proposal before making a “firm decision”.
“We are declaring a biodiversity and climate change emergency and we need to reflect in our practice climate and biodiversity best choices,” she said.
“I will declare my interest as a real Christmas tree owner and I cannot be persuaded otherwise [to change to an artificial tree].
“We would encourage people if they do choose to have a real tree there are a few very good charities locally which collect and chip your tree.
“It is an ideal opportunity for many households who do still have a tree to continue the festive period of giving by looking at other opportunities for the disposal of the tree.”
Councillors passed a motion to consult on ending the service in January 2025 for the 26,000 homes without a garden waste subscription, which this year cost £47.25.
At the same meeting it was conceded such a move could see more trees dumped illegally.
“The risk is there are areas of fly-tipping and people leave their trees anyway in areas they traditionally always have done, such as big piles in the middle of Whitstable,” said Cllr Cornell.
Her Labour colleague, Cllr Connie Nolan, says there is also a health and safety risk.
“One thing I do remember from my youth is when you throw a match on a Christmas tree, it does go up like a Christmas tree," she said.
“I think that is a problem we should be thinking about.
“It is not only fly-tipping, it could be a fire risk as well.”
Meanwhile, the city council has also voted to scrap the stickers on green wheelie bins that highlight those signed up to the garden waste service.
The authority says it will save about £20,000 a year in production and distribution costs – but admits it could see some non-subscribers mistakenly having their bins emptied for free.
Cllr Cornell added: “[The stickers] don’t exactly weather the test of time and don’t provide a cost-effective demarcation of subscribers.
“There are other ways to do this by using our online systems and by encouraging subscribers to label their bins clearly.
“With a very clearly labelled bin placed in the correct place, our systems can identify bins that are on our system to collect.”
The council will also move subscribers from direct debits to online card payments as processing the former is “time-consuming and inflexible”.
Those without debit or credit cards or internet access will still be able to join a scheme where they can pay with cash or cheque, as is the case now.
The council also voted to move to a 46-week garden waste service – up from 42 weeks - if the free Christmas tree collections are dropped.
It would see the cost of subscribing also increase, but by how much is yet to be decided.
A proposal to exclude purple sack properties from the garden waste scheme was also approved.
There are about 2,600 homes on the list, but very few subscribe to the service.