Councillors needled over Christmas tree recyclingBy Linda Fort
January 11, 2013
Santa's little helpers at the council in Reading seem to have got their wires crossed over the annual Christmas tree recycling service.
One councillor was told by council officers that the annual tradition of leaving discarded Christmas trees at a collection point for recycling had been axed by Reading Borough Council.
As a result Conservative councillors condemned the ‘chaos’ across town resulting from the failure to inform the public the service no longer existed. They said hundreds of Christmas trees had been taken to the traditional collection points and left in piles.
And they criticised the Labour-run administration for allegedly scrapping the collection facility and failing to tell anyone about it.
But Reading Borough Council said the Christmas tree recycling service has not been axed and is unchanged from previous years.
Mapledurham councillor Isobel Ballsdon said: “I was surprised to learn from a council officer this week that the service has been axed by the Labour administration.
“No press release was issued and there is no obvious notice on the council’s website or at the former collection points.
“Apparently this year the council advises that residents should cut up their Christmas tree and put the pieces in their green waste bin or alternatively take it to the civic amenity site at Smallmead, but residents are clearly as unaware of this change of policy as I was.”
Cllr Ballsdon went on: “I went to Mapledurham Pavilion’s car park this afternoon and saw three massive piles of discarded Christmas trees.
“I understand from colleagues that the same is true at Clayfield Copse and the other former collection sites.
“This wasn’t a great surprise given that households were taking down their decorations by the sixth of January.
“The Labour administration has once again completely failed to communicate the change of policy and now any financial saving they had budgeted for will disappear due to the unplanned for cost of clearing up their mess.”
Tory leader Cllr Tim Harris said: “Once again Labour has failed to communicate effectively with residents. At a time when the coalition nationally is clearing up Labour’s mess, they are wasting public money locally and letting residents down.”
Reading Borough Council spokesman Oscar Mortali tried to make sense of the confusion.
He said: “The arrangements for collecting Christmas trees across Reading is exactly the same as in previous years. Since Monday this week two teams from the parks department have been working full time to collect and chip the trees. We are currently processing nearly 200 trees a day and have removed several lorry loads of chippings so far this week. These will be used around our parks and open spaces for maintenance tasks.
“Recycling commences immediately after the first weekend of the new year when trees really start to be taken down and we expect to carry on with this for about two weeks.
“With such large numbers of trees being discarded over this first weekend it always takes a few days to catch up with the rate at which they are deposited.
“We are sorry if conflicting information may have led people to believe this service had ceased, but would like to emphasise to residents the intention was always for the parks team to collect, chip and use the trees at these sites – as per the usual arrangement – and that process will continue until they have all been collected and recycled.”
Environment lead councillor Paul Gittings commented on Facebook: “There is no change to the normal service and trees will be picked up as per normal by the council.
“Excuse the pun but think Cllr Ballsdon has been barking up the wrong tree!”
However, the council website before Christmas made no mention at all of the tree collection points and instead said this: “Trees can be recycled as usual at the Household Waste Recycling Centre.
“Alternatively people can recycle their Christmas trees using the green garden waste collection service. Trees must be chopped into pieces so they fit in the green waste bin or bag.”