LESS than a quarter of South Gloucestershire residents have signed up to pay for their green bins to be emptied in a new opt-in system which launched on Monday.

Of the district’s 110,000 households, 22,000 have subscribed to pay South Gloucestershire Council £36 a year to have their green waste collected.

The authority said it was pleased with the figures, which nearly meets its expected take up rate of 23,000 but campaigners against the controversial ‘bin tax’ have questioned what the remaining 88,000 householders will do with their garden waste.

Cllr Ian Adams (Con, Siston and Warmley) said the charge would encourage people not to recycle rather than increase recycling rates.

“If only 22,000 have paid the charge so far, then what is happening to the green waste belonging to the other 89,000 households in the district?,” he said.

“The concerns that local people expressed to the council in last year’s sham consultation is that households feel they now have no alternative but to put their green waste into their black bins or heap yet more pressure onto dangerously congested Sort It centres across the district if they want to avoid this tax.

“It’s alarming that the council is anticipating that only a fraction of the district’s 111,000 households will pay this new bin charge.”

Westerleigh Richard Hall, who has not signed up to the service, said: “As a family who have been encouraged to recycle by the council for many years, the introduction of charging seems completely at odds with this approach.

“Many people are simply going to be tempted to put their green bin waste in their black bins or drive to the nearest Sort It centre which won't help our environment. It also seems rather disingenuous to claim to have 'frozen council tax' only to then bring in this stealth tax on recycling."

Kingswood Conservative MP Chris Skidmore mounted a petition signed by 4,000 people against the charge and has won the backing of Secretary of State for Communities Eric Pickles. On Twitter, South Gloucestershire residents have expressed their fears for increased fly tipping.

But the council said the charge would help protect frontline services as the authority is forced to find further savings of £36million, having already made cutbacks totalling £43million.

A spokesman said the introduction of kerbside plastic tub collections, alongside plastic bottles which are already collected, would help maintain above national recycling rates.

“The garden waste collection is an opt-in service and residents who do not wish to subscribe have a number of low-cost or free alternatives for disposing of their garden waste,” said the council.

“These include (£2) garden waste sacks for those who require only occasional collections. Residents are also being encouraged to consider the free and environmentally-friendly option of composting, which ensures that garden waste and uncooked kitchen waste can be returned to the garden as a free soil improver.

“Residents can also continue to dispose of garden waste free of charge at their local Sort It centre.

“South Gloucestershire already has one of the highest recycling rates among unitary authorities and the changes aim to build on this success by extending the recycling service to include more types of waste.”