A Pembrokeshire scheme for the free recovery of real Christmas trees from residents after the festive season will now see a £5 cost for each tree to save the council an estimated £10,000 a year.

At the November meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council’s Cabinet, members backed a proposal to introduce the charge, which was identified as a potential cost saving during the setting of the 2023-24 council budget.

The council introduced a real Christmas tree collection service in 2016 in order to support increase recycling performance and reduce the illegal disposal of Christmas trees after it was awarded funding as part of the Sustainable Waste Management Grant, with 440 trees collected that year, rising to 1,818 in 2022; associated costs increasing from approximately £4,000 to £11,000 in 2022-23.

While the scheme was initially grant-funded, it was solely funded by the council from 2020, a report for members stating: “With increased pressures on budgets it was proposed as part of the 2023-24 savings options agreed by council in March 2023 that a fee would be introduced to support these collections to households who wished to use the service.”

As one of three options before Cabinet members it was proposed to introduce a charge of £5 for the discretionary service, an above-inflation rate that required Cabinet approval.

Other options included maintaining the status-quo, with an impact of budgets, and ceasing the collection service, with fears of an increase in fly-tipping.

In recommending the introduction of a £5 charge, the report said it could lead to an increase in fly-tipped Christmas trees, but added: “however this is an issue which has been experienced historically, it will continued to be monitored and investigations undertaken where possible”.

Moving approval of the recommendation, Cabinet Member for Residents’ Services Cllr Rhys Sinnett stressed that trees could still be disposed of free-of-charge at any of the council’s six waste and recycling centres.