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ACT government to roll out green waste bin service in southside suburbs in early 2017

Canberrans will finally get a garden waste bin but some households will get it a lot earlier than others.

It's a big turnaround from the ACT Labor government which has rubbished the idea for years, previously saying a kerbside garden waste service would cost too much to run.

The Canberra Liberals announced ahead of the last election, in 2012, they would provide a garden waste bin for free if elected and re-sell the waste as mulch but Labor claimed at the time a third-bin service would be too expensive.

Four years later and five months out from the October 15 election, the worm has turned.

Under this current plan from Labor, households will only receive their third bin if they opt into the service and pay a one-off $50 deposit for the bin.

Concession card holders will receive a garden waste bin without paying a deposit.

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A fortnightly service will pick up green waste from the bin such as lawn clippings, leaves and branches.

Food scraps and other organic waste that might usually end up in a compost will not be allowed in the bins.

The green bins will help recycle some of the estimated 5000 tonnes of green waste which goes to landfill because people put the waste in their usual garbage bins.

The government says the full cost of extending the service across the city has not yet been determined.

Kambah and Weston Creek households will be first to get the green waste bin service in a pilot program.

Their service is expected to start in early 2017.

The cost of the pilot and rollout across Kambah and Weston Creek will be $1,715,000.

That funding will be over two financial years, starting in the 2016/17 budget to be handed down on June 7.

The plan has the support of Greens MLA Shane Rattenbury. The Liberals say they are finalising their policy.

Queanbeyan City Council services 13,236 premises with a fortnightly kerbside green waste bin service at a cost of $295,000 per year.

Environment director Mike Thomson said that cost was for collection only, not disposal or processing.

ACT Municipal Services Minister Meegan Fitzharris said the pilot program was not a trial and the government was committed to rolling out the green waste bins across the territory.

She said the pilot program would be reviewed after 12 months only to ensure the service worked properly.

The pilot would determine "how many waste trucks will be required for a city wide rollout, the impact that a city wide rollout may have on existing waste facilities and the required regularities of pickups".

It would also help determine the full costs of the service city-wide, something her office said had not yet been determined.

"It is difficult to determine [the full cost] at this stage, which is why we are doing the pilot program," a spokesperson said.

The minister's office also confirmed rates would not go up for people who opted into the service.

The green waste service to other suburbs would be funded in future budgets. So other suburbs might not get the service until 2018.

In 2011, Environment Minister Simon Corbell rejected the idea of a garden waste bin because he said the service would cost an estimated $20 million a year to run.

The Liberals in 2012 estimated a green bin service would cost $5.5 million a year to run, subsidised in part by the re-sale of the mulch. It also proposed spending $10 million to build a garden waste processing facility.

Ms Fitzharris said the cost of the service was likely to be less than $20 million as some people would not opt into a green waste service because they didn't need it as they didn't have a garden.

She said Weston Creek and Kambah were chosen to start the service as they provided a good sample size and had mature gardens.

Ms Fitzharris said the government was responding to the wishes of residents who wanted a green waste bin.

"I'm proud that we will soon be able to offer every household that wants it a great scheme that helps Canberra families manage their garden waste in a responsible, cost-effective way," she said.

The garden waste collected would be processed at existing facilities.

"We will tender for this service so the pilot program in Weston Creek and Kambah can be up and running quickly in 2017," she said.

"The mulch prepared from waste will be available through commercial providers, and the opt-in cost recovery deposit for the bin will ensure that only households who want a bin, will get one."

Weston Creek resident Cath Collins said she would "absolutely" opt in to the green waste bin saying her family otherwise paid $35 a month to a contractor to take away garden waste or had to organise a trailer to take it to the tip themselves.