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Weekly rubbish collections binned – good for recycling?

Man putting rubbish in bin

Tougher recycling targets are in, and a return to weekly rubbish pick-ups is most definitely out – what’s your view when it comes to wheelie bins, waste collections and ‘slop buckets’?

Poor old Eric Pickles. The community secretary’s pre-election vow to bring back the ‘basic human right for every Englishman and woman to be able to put the remnants of their chicken tikka masala in the bin without having to wait two weeks for it be collected’ has now been binned itself.

That’s right – the government’s commitment to bring back the weekly black bag collection has had to be watered down. This followed opposition from councils and a gaping black hole in the budget needed to reinstate weekly services – reportedly an extra £100 million a year.

According to analysis from waste advisors Wrap, reintroducing weekly waste collections across the board would have dropped recycling rates by 5% and led to an extra million tonnes of rubbish going to landfill each year.

Weekly vs. fortnightly bin collections

So while the Waste Policy Review talks of ‘working with local councils to increase the frequency and quality of rubbish collections’ it leaves it to ‘local authorities to develop fit-for-purpose local solutions’.

So what does that mean for our dustbins in future – and for Mr Pickles’ leftover curry?

Around half of English councils have already switched to an alternate weekly collection timetable. And with landfill taxes soaring, council budgets being squeezed and recycling targets toughening, it’s thought more local areas will favour this type of approach in future.

From my understanding, though, no council has done this without making some extra doorstep recycling provision. In the case of 72 English local authority areas, the introduction of regular food waste collections – the main source of smells and unpleasantness – has been the sweetener needed to bring round unconvinced residents.

The rise of the ‘slop bucket’

This has certainly helped to make the move to alternate week collections more palatable in my mind. I’ve just been informed that my local council will be introducing fortnightly rubbish collections – in conjunction with separate weekly food waste pick-ups – from October.

Aside from wondering where my new food waste ‘caddy’ (or ‘slop bucket’, the rather more vivid name these bins go by) is going to fit into a small kitchen already home to separate rubbish and recycling bins, I’m not expecting the shift to be too painful in my two-person household.

I do attempt to recycle as much as I can already, and as the range of materials collected from my doorstep grows, there’s definitely less stuff making it into my general bin these days. So I’m not envisaging any overflowing or smelly wheelie bin problems – in theory, anyway.

A load of rubbish?

What’s clear from some of the local cases making the headlines – like the area with nine separate wheelie bins to the infamous ‘pay-as-you throw’ bin tax – is that meddling with our rubbish is a sure-fire way to court controversy.

Tell us what’s happening where you live. Has the introduction to a fortnightly waste collection been controversial or trouble-free? Do you love or lament the move away from the weekly bin round?


All councils need to follow Rugby’s example.

1 bin for green waste, 1 for ALL recycling, 1 for the general waste

Green and recycling (blue) bins are emptied every 2 weeks, alternating between the black bin collection. Because you can recycle everything and can put it all in the same bin, you end up recycling WAY more than you ever thought possible and so you don’t need black bin collection every week.

Councils with more than 3 bins need a rethink. They are just not doing enough for the tax they take

Fat Sam, Glos says:
16 June 2011

Councils don’t seem to understand the idea that people lead busy lives, with hundreds of important decisions to make without having further to worry about which bin to throw a particular item into and when it would be collected.

I have a driveway, and can accommodate 2 large wheelie bins (general and green, collected alternate weeks) and a large green box (weekly). Our council also collects paper and clothing if it’s bagged (weekly) and provide a food waste caddy (weekly). I think this is sufficient (2 big bins, 1 small bin and a plastic box) – you don’t need any more bins than that. The only thing more I’d like is for them to also collect corrugated cardboard.

Many people don’t have the space and where space is a premium councils need to have a re-think or provide an alternative solution.

Personally, we keep the large food waste caddy outside and fill it from a nice ceramic/metal one lined with paper which can sit on a window sill in the kitchen and not look unsightly. If it smells – empty it!

Council’s need to keep things simple and easy if they really want recycling to work and be cost-effective. Too many councils want households to do their job for them but surely it’s more efficient for them to do this themselves as they can sort recyclable materials far more accurately and reduce the chances of contamination thus maximising any revenue and reducing costs? Also, if they kept it simple, they’d have to provide far less information/advice on recycling.

I’m amazed you can’t recycle cardboard, it’s the same where I live at the mo. Surely that’s one of the easiest things to recycle?

Phil says:
16 June 2011

Where I live the council won’t collect cardboard but there are collection points at the local supermarkets (always full to bursting) and the council tip/re-cycling centre.

Yes, I left out a big cardboard box this week that I thought would be perfect for recycling (my council seem to take everything in one big bag) – but no, it was left outside my door. I expect if I’d squeezed it into a bag (waste of plastic) they would have taken it. I’m sorry and guilty to say that I put it in with the normal rubbish afterwards…

On-topic: Still have weekly bin collections (both normal refuse and recycling) – there’s been no word from the council of this changing…

I actually don’t mind not having a weekly ‘general waste’ collection every week. Where does it say that there should be one – it’s only because that’s been the practice for years and years. I think a fortnightly collection makes sense. In two weeks I’d say as a couple we prob fill about 4-5 normal shopping bags worth of rubbish – hardly anything at all. That’s about a 1/3 of a wheelie bin a fortnight. A family of 6 should be OK.

Of course, the people who will complain the most about fortnightly collections are probably the ones who are lazy (can’t be bothered at all to recycle) and the ignorant (those who don’t consider excess packaging at the point of purchase). If you have more people in your household then you really ought to think even more about your carbon footprint and the impact your having on landfill and take measures to reduce your per-person waste.

Where does the responsibilities of the retailers come into this? After all, a huge amount of the rubbish that we need to dispose of, and in some areas have to pay for disposing of, is provided by retailers in excessive packaging (that is not biodegradable in a normal compost bin), with the customer given no choice in whether they want to carry home and dispose of this or not.

Complain to your retailer. We (I’ll say ‘I’!) make a point of not purchasing anything where we consider excessive use of packaging. In Tesco you can text the store with your feedback whilst you’re waiting at checkout.

It doesn’t make sense for retailers. Excess packaging takes up space – space that could be taken up with more product. More product means more things that can be sold with fewer deliveries = less cost = bigger margins or more competitive pricing.

And where excess packaging is clear (so you can see the contents, such as chicken breasts) it just annoys consumers because they can se how ridiculous it is.

Stores – take note!

We (sheffield) have a blue bin that WAS for paper and card, which was emptied once a month. For many people this wasn’t enough but you could get a second blue biun just by asking and many of us found that worked OK. Sheffield USED to take cardboard too, as long as it was either in the blue bin or flattened and tied with string and left beside the blue bin. We also have the regular black bin for non-recyclable waste. Garden Waste (NOT food of ANY kind) is collected in green sacks which you used to have to pay for but have been free to collect for the last 2 years. You fill the bags and as soon as you have 3 or more you ring up and they come and take them away. It used to take up to 8 days from your call unti they were fetched.

Note my use of the past tense in much of the above.

The current system, brought in against such huge public opposition that it even got raised in the House of Commons, is that we have a silly little plastic crate with a pathetic plastic “shower cap” into which we are supposed to put our paper. Card is no longer taken. The crate is emptied once every two weeks but only holds about a third of what the blue bins used to . It’s very hard to get extra crates out of the council. The result is that paper and card recycling is all but impossible for households with a daily paper or more.

Alongside the silly crate we now have to use the Blue bins that used to be for paper and card to put glass bottles, tin cans & plastic bottles in. These are also collected once a fortnight. Many households can barely quarter-fill their blue bins with such items, though admittedly a few people find that they can fill the bin. The addition of a collection service for plastic, tin and glass was certainly long overdue but the general public feeling is that the crate would be better suited for thiks and the blue bins were better used for the paper and card. The recently deposed council leader promised to change the system to crates for glass, tins and plastic and blue bins for paper and card from April the 1st this year. He then had to back down as Veolia, the contractors employed to collect Sheffield’s waste, refused to comply and we now have a new council of a different political colour with a new leader. Whilst in opposition they made a **** of a stink about wanting the above change but now in office it has all gone quiet and nothing has happened yet on that front BUT ……..

We are now seeing the roll-out of a “new improved” service for garden waste which sees the green sacks collected within TWENTY days of you ringing for them (not 8 any more) and where a MAXIMUM of 6 sacks will be collected at any one time AND where you cannot book a collection until your previous lot has gone. Improved????? Guaranteed to reduce composting and increase fly tipping and filling black bins with compostible material if you ask me.

Meanwhile our black are, and alway have been, collected weekly, even though many of us only manage to fill them over a period of about 6 to 8 weeks. Indeed mine ONLY goes out for collection when I am on holiday from work, i.e. about every 7 weeks on average, and it isn’t always full then.

My suspicion is that the privatised waste companies (e.g. Veolia) are profiteering by over-charging (read ripping off) councils so that cash-strapped councils (especially under the current round of cuts) simply can’t implement proper refuse and recycling services even if they wish to – and some don’t even seem to wish to.

LJ says:
17 June 2011

I would love the opportunity to have a food waste collection. I live in a maisonette on a large Estate in Central London, four of us live in the flat and all cook separately. Even when trying not to waste food the amount of peelings etc we produce is huge. But because we are on an Estate the services are very poor and we will be the bottom of the pile for the Council to try and tackle.

I think people should be grateful for the excellent services that they receive, I would love my Council to actually make an effort with my waste collection!

I’ve been reading a few comments in papers saying that the answer is to privatise rubbish collection – what do you think of that idea?

We had a privatised fly tipping removal system in my borough – it didn’t work – the initial tips spread before the company bothered to clear.- until the protests caused the council to do it themselves as before

Sadly rather like privatised old age care schemes which don’t seem to work too well either. I prefer the council to be responsible for rubbish of all sorts to be collected. At least we can vote them out of office every four years if they don’t do a good job. My council does – including cardboard every week.

Peter Thornton says:
19 June 2011

I’m a local Councillor in South Lakeland where we’ve had weekly collections on a fortnightly cycle for over 5 years. i.e. fortnightly collections in Pickles speak. The lorry comes every week but collects recyclables alternately. It’s been accepted by 99% of our residents and doesn’t cause any issues at all. Incidentally the Council tax (District Council) on a band D property is currently £3.81p per week so it’s not bad value!
Just when did it become a “basic human right” to throw everything out of the back door and it immediately become someone else’s problem?

Well……. Before the war – the galvanised dustbin was used and had a weekly emptying – but it contained ashes from the open fires (the fires consumed a lot of paper too while starting) [ little central heating] – and food waste. There were no plastics and very little cardboard packaging as items were far less packaged (a paper bag was sufficient – and most items produced in the UK not overseas). So rubbish was all put in the bin collectively and forgotten about – just like today – Fly-tipping existed too – but not so blatantly on the streets – normally on common land. .

During the war – we had a change – a number of pig bins at the end of the street for food waste for pigs – collected every other day being replaced with cleaned bins. The dust bins continued weekly if bombing allowed – Fly Tipping continued on bomb-sites. After the war the pig bins disappeared – So frankly I can remember it “as a human right” since before WW2.

The real difference now is the increase in the amount of irresponsible uncaring people around – dropping litter – bottles – cans – spitting – etc and the blatant disregard .for the cleanliness of the surroundings.
But then glass bottles had a deposit on them and there were no drink tin cans – but there was No Spitting signs on Buses.

just because ‘we’ve always done it like that’ doesn’t mean we always have to. There was a time in this country when people used to throw their human waste out of first floor windows straight out into the street. Are you saying people should be allowed to continue doing that?

Times change, products change, packaging technology changes, priorities change – and that means we have to change. It’s inevitable.

But one thing I do wish for – that the WADILT-ism mentality would change too. We’re not living in the 20th century anymore.

Actually, Richard, I’d argue that this country has never been a cleaner or healthier place than it is now – probably even more so than your rose-tinted memories of WW2.

And you only have to look at some of our near neighbours to realise that actually, when it comes to litter, graffitti, refuse collections and billboard controls that we don’t do too badly in the UK* – although there’s always plenty of room for improvement to match the continent’s cleanest countries.

*People will argue that in some parts of the continent they have daily collections. This tends to be seasonal – in holiday resorts where most of the waste being collected is business waste contracted to private collectors.

Sue says:
1 July 2011

I live in Kent, and I must say our binmen are great! We get collections once a week when they take garden waste in green bags, household waste in black bags and recyclable waste in clear bags. These are all provided free. The binmen will take any cardboard we put out, even without us having to break it all up! They have also taken small items of furniture, wood and other ‘odds n sods’. Maybe its because our council tax is quite high – and because I give them a decent tip at Christmas?
I do so hope they don’t listen to the every 2 weeks idea!

We have green waste and black bin waste taken every week and recycling every two weeks,
from September black bin waste will be every 2 weeks and we’ll have recycling and green waste every week- big improvement we think as it takes ages to fill the black one as we recycle so much.
There has been up roar in the local press as people think the streets will be strewn with rotten food but if people used the green waste properly no food waste would end up in a black bag for the seagulls!

Can someone explain to me how collecting my waste every fortnight reduces the amount I place in the relevant bin?

All it does is that they pick up 2 weeks worth at a time instead of one.

I have also advised my council that during summer the food waste bins are totally inadequate and they should be hermetically (is that the correct word?) sealed so that the smell/flies fail to cause an issue.

Last week my food waste bin was seething with maggots, it quickly went into the non-recyclable bin! I will continue to do this regardless.

So somewhere along the line flies must be being allowed to sit on your food/food waste.

Washing out your food bin (perhaps with a nice smelling cleaner) each week will stop any eggs hatching from flies that got in when the bin was being emptied/left open afterwards. This is SO much easier than washing out a wheelie bin.

Also put your house number and road on the food waste bin and then you won’t have to deal with someone else’s smelly old food-lined and egg-infested bin.

Keeping your food waste out of the residual waste reduces the rat, cat, magpie and fox interest of your bin/black sack and having your waste spread across the pavement and local roads.

@lessismore – I use a biodegradable insert in my food waste bin. As for a ‘black sack’ we don’t use them round here, it’s a black bin for non-recyclables.

Also when I first moved here they used to collect garden waste in a green bags then bin free, they then decided that if you wanted to have this pleasure you had to pay £30 for it. As council tax is already far too high for the received poor service you can guess what my answer was.

I too remember the days (not quite the war) when you had a metal bin, the scaffies used to go round to the back of the house, pick them up on their shoulder and take them for emptying, now we get charged for the privilege of moving the bins to the street. Soon they will end up marking where the bins should be placed so that they can be picked up automatically.

As I get older the likelihood of a back injury carrying the recycling boxes out becomes more likely, then what, a large NHS bill for the government and they will still need to collect the waste but from where the bins are stored. Btw don’t say ask a neighbour as everyone is in the same age group.

We line our food waste bin with newspaper – you can use compostable (with the seedling logo and made to EN13432 standard) liners too, either in the the caddy or the bigger bin. They have to be the right kind of bio-degradable to suit wherever/however the food is being processed. There are lots of kinds of degradable and not all are suitable.

What is making your recycling boxes so heavy? Glass and metal are sadly being replaced by plastic which is less easy to recycle and takes up a lot of space but is light.

We found the parents’ fortnightly collection of newspapers the heaviest to deal with. Stop as much junk mail as you can – this is something that has to be revisited often – and catalogues that you don’t need and can re-order if you do and if you are not reading all those newspapers consider whether you want them every day of the week and both Saturday and Sunday. I’ve recently found another use for old newspaper – at the local animal sanctuary. http://myzerowaste.com/2011/05/dealing-with-junk-mail/ will lead to you many more ways to reduce your waste. Finding a way to reuse rather than recycle reduces the amount in the recycling box.

Many Councils don’t collect glass in a mixed recycling collection so residents have to take it the local recycling banks or back to the supermarket recycling banks. If you are using a supermarket take some recycling back when you visit. Make sure you know what can take elsewhere and that your Council website has it listed clearly for everyone. This is useful for when you go on holiday and will miss a collection or have a party or guests saying or have a clear-out etc. http://www.recyclenow.com should be updated by your Council (as well as their own website) to show where the recycling banks are!

A neighbour has his green box strapped to trolley wheels with a handle. Other people keep their recycling boxes turned over outside and add their recycling from the waste-paper basket and inside smaller recycling bin on or the night before collection bit by bit.

The less packaging you buy and the more sustainable it is the easier it is to dispose of!

We need to make sure that packaging continues to be re-visited and improved with better sustainability.

BILL says:
25 April 2016

our council collect every week 1 household week 2 recycled only 2 bins works great in Redditch