Asthma sufferers alert: will Wealden residents resort to bonfires to avoid new garden waste charges?

17 August 2019

Get your inhaler ready: bonfires ahead

Earlier this month, Asthma UK reported that its analysis of Office for National Statistics (ONS) data showed that more than 1,400 people in England and Wales died from asthma attacks (1).  That represents an increase of 8% since 2017.

Here in the South East, the situation is even worse, with deaths from asthma increasing by 25%.  How much worse will these figures be in the Wealden area in the future, as the impact of Wealden District Council's short-sighted initiative to charge for garden waste collection is felt?

Only one household in three has chosen to pay for garden waste collection: that's 25,000 households out of the 75,000 that could have made use of the service.  So 50,000 households will now be finding other means of disposing of their weeds and hedge-clippings.  Although Wealden District Council's official advice is to avoid having bonfires (2), many residents will decide that this is the easiest and cheapest way of getting rid of the unwanted material that cannot go to landfill, and that is no longer a part of the regular refuse collection.

Bonfires are dirty.  They emit large quantities of smoke, which includes sooty particulates and dioxins (3).  And if you suffer from asthma, this toxic combination can trigger an attack.  Any emissions from an increased incidence of bonfires in the Wealden area will contribute to a deterioration in air quality in the District, and may contribute even further to the increasing rate of deaths from asthma in the South East.

Green Party district councillors Keith Obbard and Patricia Patterson-Vanegas oppose the introduction of charges for the collection of any domestic waste.  Patricia says "Wealden District Council's decision to end garden waste collections for everyone may actually cause avoidable deaths.  We're pressing the Council to reconsider its position, to ensure that air quality improves and the health of residents is protected."

(1) https://www.asthma.org.uk/about/media/news/press-release-asthma-death-toll-in-england-and-wales-is-the-highest-this-decade/

(2) http://www.wealden.gov.uk/Wealden/Residents/Environment_and_Pollution/Pollution/Supportingneighbourhoods/Smoke/PHCS_Residential_Bonfires.aspx

(3) Environment Agency science report SC060037/SR3.