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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.

Old Bat says:
16 June 2011

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!


Great advice fat sam. Apparently over 10 million tonnes of packaging is produced a year, and accounts for a fifth