RECYCLING their garden waste is set to cost households up to an extra £56 a year as council chiefs attempt to offset government cuts of nearly £45 million.

Members of South Gloucestershire Council's communities committee aredue to decide on Tuesday evening whether to charge residents £36 to pick up their green bins.

Making people in the region pay an additional £20 for a pre-paid bundle of ten recycling sacks is also on the agenda.

If approved, the move would cost the taxpayer £1.2 million district-wide for a service which has so far been provided for free.

But putting such a financial burden on already struggling families could lead to fly-tipping and harm the environment by forcing cash-strapped households to stop recycling altogether, said Cllr James Hunt, the council's Conservative lead member for communities.

Ahead of the meeting he told the Gazette: "Residents feel like they are being ambushed into accepting an annual charge which could be as high as £56 and which will cut the district’s recycling rate after many years of sustained improvement.

"Residents have also identified in their consultation responses that some people will instead simply use their black bins to dispose of their garden waste or fly-tip or burn the waste in their back yards, which will not be good for our local environment."

In February South Gloucestershire Council officers consulted the public on their new waste strategy for 2013-2019.

The document set out ways to meet government cuts over the next four years such as introducing a subscription-based fortnightly garden waste service.

Council officers however admitted that the district’s current 51 per cent recycling rate could fall by 1.5 per cent if green bin charging was introduced – below the national 50 per cent milestone.

The strategy was blasted by Conservative group members, who felt it should have included a free option. Of the almost 2,000 consultation responses received, a majority of comments were against paying for green bin collection.

Labour's lead member for communities Cllr Pat Rooney said, however, that charging for bin collection may be the only way to save other essential services: "If the council ultimately chose not to charge for the green bin service then we’d have to implement cuts that could affect valued services such as libraries."

Locals on income support would receive a 50 per cent discount on the subscription price and pre-paid sacks.

If approved by councillors the charges will come in effect in March 2014.