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How easy is it to dispose of your rubbish?


Local authorities are reportedly spending more that £67m every year to tackle fly-tipping. So how hard is it for you to dispose of your household waste?

Every morning on my way to work, I walk past a plane tree that’s sat in the middle of a walled raised bed. At one point, it probably looked smart.

Now though it’s used as a dumping ground for any old rubbish that people can throw on it – broken bits of fence, garden waste, random bits of plastic that could certainly be recycled, obsolete electricals, and bags of clothes and kids’ toys that have been rifled through and scattered.

No sooner is it cleared away, a fresh pile appears.

If I go a different route, a mattress, sofa or TV will have invariably been propped against a wall or dumped on the pavement.

Late last year, a ripped-out kitchen took up a section of the path for several weeks. As me and my dad, who was visiting, sidestepped it, I lamented that fly-tipping seemed to be on the increase in the area.

Turns out I was right – welcome to Haringey, reportedly the fly-tipping capital of Britain.

Rubbish problems

But this isn’t just a local problem. Fly-tipping across the whole of the UK is now said to be reaching crisis point, with local authorities apparently spending more than £67m every year dealing with the problem.

So why is it on the increase? Well, many are putting it down to the reduced frequency of household rubbish collections, which local councils introduced a few years back to encourage more recycling.

In Haringey, it’s every two weeks for the main bin (non-recyclable) and every week for the recycling and food bins. But in other parts of the country, it’s every three weeks.

Then there’s the fact that some councils have been increasing fees or introducing new ones for various types of waste disposal, both kerbside and at recycling centres.

In West Oxfordshire, my parents are about to start paying £30 a year for their green waste bin to be collected every fortnight. Small fry, but it’s a service that was once free.

In certain areas, tightened budgets have reduced opening times at local tips and some being closed altogether. And for some, this can mean a 40-mile trip to visit the nearest recycling centre.

On the other side of the fence is commercial waste disposal. In some areas, businesses and tradespeople are experiencing a 15% increase in waste-disposal charges and have effectively been banned from household recycling centres.

Adding to the problem are those who collect waste for profit, offering to remove your rubbish, but then some are found to illegally fly-tip it. That’s why you should always check their waste carriers licence before you part money for this service.

Waste solutions

If waste disposal facilities and services continue to be reduced, then I can’t help thinking that the problem is going to get worse. I also wonder if councils are spending more on clearing up illegally dumped waste than they would on offering more regular bin collections and easier, cheaper ways to get rid of larger items?

Are you finding it more difficult to dispose of your rubbish or are you being charged more to do it? Have you noticed an increase in fly-tipping in your area?

Gerard Phelan says:
26 February 2017

These differing ‘standards’ of waste disposal are not laid down by God in heaven or imposed as a punishment from his nemesis below. We could do things differently if we CHOOSE to do so, just as the recent referendum showed, it IS possible to change long standing ways of living.

When visiting friends in a suburb of Düsseldorf, Germany, I was shocked to see piles of furniture, kitchen units, plasterboard and similar rubbish on some corners of the tree and grass lined roads. My friends were bemused by my surprise. Every month their local council would collect ‘anything’ from designated places and I was visiting on one of the days that rubbish could be put out.

“not laid down by God in heaven”. Well, I’m not so sure. One of the Household Waste and Recycling Centres not too far away from us is named High Heavens.

ronnies says:
26 February 2017

No one seems to have mentioned 2 very basic ways of recycling: compost bins (ideal for shredded paper & most of the more smelly disposals) and freecycle for more or less anything from the odd chair to offcuts of carpet, sideboards to magazines, tractor tyres to mattresses and the donee normally collects. In Bath the Council presently collects weekly – cans and plastics in the box, newspapers separated in a bag, bottles separated, clean clothing, shoes, small electrical goods – cardboard and tetrapacks in a big blue bag and waste food not suitable for composting wrapped in newspaper or plastic bags in a black caddy. We have number plate recognition at the local tip, where I take larger garden donations & rubble collected from my very stony allotment.. For all that, the footpath opposite my house is regularly used for fly tipping, even objects that could easily be put out for collection. At the Keynsham tip they have regular sales of furniture etc salvaged from the tip.

I wonder how legal number plate recognition is, given that councils can no longer use CCTV/ANPR in their car parks to handle charges and penalty notices?

I think number plate recognition systems at waste disposal sites should possibly only be used for the detection of misuse by commercial users, not to stop citizens from depositing household waste – that was never the intention of the original legislation. Why should anyone have to take waste further than necessary? Surely, in most county and joint waste authority areas, a degree of reciprocation should apply so that the cross-boundary flows balance out.

Like Malcolm I question the legality of using ANPR systems in this context, and how does it deal with people who borrow a relative’s larger car, or hire a van if they want to get rid of a large item like a bed or a wardrobe, or if they are disposing of something from their second home? Organisations that have the power to make rules never cease inventing new ones, and then they employ jobsworths to enforce them.

I see there is an article on the BBC News website this morning about the variation in recycling arrangements and recycling rates across the country, in response to a report by Keep Britain Tidy. Read more here ~

The article says “Household recycling levels are too low in England because council schemes are too confusing, campaigners claim. Keep Britain Tidy (KBT) says at least 300 systems are in use and government figures show one council’s recycling rate is just 15%, with an England average of 43.9%. KBT is urging the government to create a national ‘recycling blueprint’.“.

One of the problems with looking at recycling as a percentage of waste collected by local council is that it ignores the volumes of material that are taken to charity shops, recycling centres, and bottle banks etc that would otherwise have ended up in the bin. Some areas have a better record on this than others so some of the criticism of the low levels of recycling might not be fully justified [although I suspect the worst authorities cannot plead that excuse and their poor performance is because they don’t take recycling seriously enough and facilitate it].

Tetra Paks must have the worst record for recycling and I can imagine a huge percentage go to landfill.

Do any councils accept them in household collections? Some areas don’t even have collection points for them. If people use a lot of them like we do with milk substitutes, chances are they might try and recycle them, but for the odd orange juice, they are likely to end up in general waste. And there will be a lot of ‘odd’ fruit juices consumed around the country.

This is one area where a national scheme is badly needed. There was only one collection point near us until recently and it was always overflowing. The container often didn’t get emptied for weeks at a time and you often saw people leaving taking their cartons with them that might have ended up in general household waste.

Fabric recycling is another area that needs looking at. Only good quality or pairs of shoes seem to be wanted. What about all the fabric and shoes that have no use left in them? Surely they can be turned into something else?

TetraPaks are accepted in the recycling bin in Norfolk. I presume they sort them out and process them differently at the plant.

I can understand shoes being a difficult commodity to recycle or reuse, especially with the modern types that are made of bits and pieces of weird and wonderful materials.

Textiles are widely accepted by charity shops even if they are not complete garments as they can be sold to rag merchants for reprocessing. Textile recycling banks seem to have unjustified restrictions, possible because all they want is stuff they can push into a container and send to a developing country. I expect my Harris Tweed sports jackets are the hot property in the tropics.

I read recently that Norwich City Council will collect small electrical appliances if left in a standard carrier bag alongside the recycling bin on collection day, and will also collect any sort of textiles which if they cannot be reused are sold for reprocessing, the fabric for upholstery padding, insulation and industrial blankets. They will also take shoes but don’t say what they can do with unusable ones.

John, your Harris Tweed jacket could have been sold twice after you donated it for free.

I once watched a video of what happened to garments left in a textile recycling bank. They went to a sorting depot owned by someone with a very nice house and car, sorted into bundles and shipped and sold to a receiver dripping in gold somewhere in Africa. The receiver then sold them to market sellers who looked like they were the ones who needed new clothes. A very small donation went to charity.

I haven’t put anything in those banks since but we can also leave textiles and small electricals on our bins now and good clothes go to a charity shop.

I realise that, Alfa, and I think I saw the same programme about the export of clothing bank donations. Because of the intense competition between charity shops on every shopping street, their prices are generally ridiculously low and they are not raising anything like enough for the good causes they represent. I think they do feel that, as well as benefitting the specific charity, they are also helping the less well-off to buy decent clothing and homewares at low prices. However, it is well know that many ‘customers’ are using charity shops to feed their on-line auction activities.

When dropping some things off at a shop run by the Children’s Society recently I had a chat with two of the volunteers and they feel that they are sometimes just used by people to discard unwanted and unsaleable goods, that the prices they can realistically charge do not reflect the work and effort that goes on behind the scenes to prepare the clothes for sale, some of which have to be washed and ironed to make them presentable, and the hours that volunteers have to put in to keep the shop going. They said that sometimes the nett weekly takings hardly cover the operating costs of the premises and that they have to pay to dispose of other people’s rubbish. As donors we wish there was a way of pushing up the selling prices of the charity shops’ stock to sensible levels but they are flooded out with garments and goods they need to shift and what doesn’t sell quite quickly gets sold in bulk to dealers. There are two very attractive leather handbags in the shop window at the moment that probably cost around £100 new but they are priced at £10 each; both are in near perfect condition. The person who contributed them probably hoped they would make a useful sum for the charity. It’s best not to look.

I remain in two minds about charity shops and I also have strong views on the questionable charities that deliver bags door-to-door for later collection. Another time or Conversation perhaps, but it’s all about disposing of waste.

Our charity runs an information centre and at one time made a steady income from bric-a-brac but now there are few items that sell. Well meaning people still bring their donations and they sit around for a few months before being passed on to charity shops or disposed of, as appropriate.

I don’t understand some people’s mentality. I have been to houses where people I know don’t bother to wash food containers before putting them in the recycling bin. Dirty clothes and general rubbish get taken to charity shops often left outside in all weather to get ruined. Rubbish litters our streets and countryside……….

I always separate items a charity shop might not want and ask them if they want them. Most of it goes to a local charity shop that supports a local disabled centre. Our local tip has an on-site shop for items that might have further use. I did find a nice hall mirror at a charity shop and at £25 didn’t consider it particularly cheap but it was what I wanted at the time.

If anyone leaves a “charity bag” at the door, they get it back empty.

I turn them inside out and use them to wrap things I take to the charity shop.

Roland says:
27 February 2017

My sister now pays £53 for her green bin, she lives in Taunton. Ridiculous or what!! Can’t believe local authorities are so short sited. Not sure what we will be paying here in South Gloucestershire yet for the green bin. But my black bin gets filled quicker now as there is no way I am driving nearly twenty miles to dispose of stone waste since the ban on stone waste at our local recycling centre.

Our green bin for garden waste is free. The next town to us makes a charge. If you have significant amounts of green waste – grass, hedge clippings for example – I’d suggest making your own compost in a bin, or a corner of the garden. Use a rotary mower to chop up the hedge clippings if necessary. Good to improve your garden and your wallet.

I started to do this when pensioned off my cylinder mower and replaced it with a petrol rotary mower. Hedge clippings and shrub prunings – everything except the thicker stems. I just put lay them on the grass and the mower deals with them. It’s particularly useful with prickly items such are pyracantha and rose prunings. It’s the only way I have been able to get all my garden waste in the brown bin. A couple of people have said I would damage the mower but it has survived for nearly 30 years.

I have noticed that many people site their compost bin out of sight in an obscure or shady corner of the garden. The best place is somewhere that will catch the sun since the heat will stimulate the decomposition and produce good material sooner.

Jean Crisp says:
27 February 2017

I can cope with a 2 weekly collection of household waste and Recycling, its the bigger things that are a problem in my area. The council have closed our local tip which was only a mile or two, and have told us to use the City tip. At my age I can’t drive round a busy city to what I am sure will be an extremely busy tip. What am I to do with smaller appliances and such things when they break down, I can’t put them in the black bin can I. I am certain this is causing fly tipping.

One possibility would be to ask a friend to help out, Jean. If I’m going to the the recycling centre I often tell friends and neighbours. The other would be to contact the council and ask what arrangements they make for people in your position. Best of luck.

I wonder if councils should stop charging for people etc to use their local tip, whether fly-tipping would drop. Maybe trial if for a month to test it out.

I had not appreciated that any councils charged residents from using their local tip – or recycling centre as these are often branded, William. It seems a good way of encouraging fly-tipping.

Have you any idea of how many councils do charge, other than for home collections?

Our local tips are free to residents but not for commercial users. If someone’s business is collecting rubbish for profit then someone also has to pay for its disposal- I don’t see why my council tax should be used for that.

I’m referring to large items like sofas, mattresses, fridges, freezers etc. If you want large items collected most councils will probably charge, I looked up Aylesbury cos someone on another forum couldn’t believe her council charged. They charge £75 for upto 3 items.

Our plasterer left a bag of cement/plasterboard at the front of our house 2 weeks ago and never told us. My husband broke it up into 3 separate bags to make it easier to carry. When he went to the local dump he was told each bag would be £6. One of them had 4 pieces of smallish plasterboard in. He brought it back home. He phoned the council….they said…put it in your rubbish bin. I take paper and glass to a recycle bin which is often overflowing….I drive around looking for bins. I don’t know the answer. I work sometime times in a community centre which has a large bin….they, apparently don’t have to recycle. A lot of people….including myself…check to see if there’s a recycling tag on the plastics…if so…put it in the recycle…..but no…not good enough. The binmen refused to take our bin due to a plastic flower pot with a triangle on….wrong type of plastic. I drive for my job part time…around the Portsmouth area….through the countryside. I see rubbish every single time I drive out….constantly…no joke….dumped all over the countryside/road verges.

Margaret, assuming you come under Hampshire, it is obvious to see how they are encouraging fly-tipping.

At least we can get rid of one bag of plasterboard for free per day. Extra bags cost £4. After we stripped a room of old plasterboard, it took 8 days of bogofs to get rid of it all and worked out a lot cheaper than a skip or hippo bag. After a few days, they got used to me driving in and asking for a bogof on plasterboard.

You could try putting it in one pop-up garden bag and take a pair of garden gloves with you to remove the bigger bits by hand until it is light enough to tip out. You can get more in a round-bottom container if the measurements conform.

This comment was removed at the request of the user

Karen Land says:
3 May 2019

It would be a great idea if the government introduced a ‘ one size fits all in recycling ‘.
I live in Staffordshire, I have a blue bin in which I put all my recycling : tetra packs, glass, paper and recyclable plastic.
My daughter lives on Yorkshire, her council is Rydale ,she has a large ‘ carrier’ bag for paper, a small black bin for glass and small green bin for plastic and metal. Her tetra packs are not recycled so they go into the large black bin….which goes into landfill.
I don’t understand the ‘ logic’ behind this ” madness”.

Totally agree with you Karen.

We have a green bin for glass, paper, plastics and metal. Tetrapaks we save up and take to a recycling bank so they don’t go straight to landfill. Some councils sort at the kerbside which must be the most effective, some even collect tetrapaks.

We also need processing plants to handle all our recycling materials so it doesn’t get shipped abroad. Councils all seem to do their own thing when it comes to what they do with it. I saw a film recently where thousands of bales of plastic had been shipped by our councils to foreign countries and were just left rotting and breaking up as they were no longer fit for use.

Our green bin is for non-recyclables, just like the black bin where I used to live. 🙁

How difficult would it to be to standardise on new bin colours throughout the country and re-code existing bins – maybe with a coloured band on the handle? Then there is the challenge of standardising what goes in each bin.

If aliens were to visit us and look at how we process our waste they would probably go back and report that they had not discovered intelligent life.

I suspect there’s a far bigger issue here; too much is left to the whims of local authorities. And generally their track record is abysmal. The sheer levels of waste created through unnecessary duplication, reinvention of the wheel, refusal to combine forces across regions, desire to build empires and petty bickering is simply breathtaking. Local authorities need to be stripped of most of their powers and money. Leave them with tasks appropriate to their abilities: nope, can’t think of anything.

Waste disposal is one of the best examples, Ian. Round the country we have all sorts of arrangements for dealing with rubbish, involving bins, boxes and bags. In the Scottish highlands, glass bottles have to be taken to a public disposal point and not put out for collection. If we could standardise on what goes in each bin across the UK there would be a lot less ‘contaminated waste’ which increases landfill and prevents good recycling. It would be great if local authorities just had to follow the rules and report back on recycling rates.

I’m not sure if I would like parking taken out of the hands of our council, which makes great use of a scarce resource offering plenty of free or inexpensive short term parking. To manage parking effectively you need to know the area.

This might be the Sky News report I saw, if not it has some similar footage and shows where Chelmsford council dumped their plastics recycling.

Dirty Business: what really happens to your recycling

A car park run by out local council has two pay machines, the coin operated one just blanked off to only allow cards, As well as increasing the minimum charge to 50p for 30 mins – reasonable – the free parking on Sundays has now been abolished and a fixed £1 charge imposed. So just park free for an hour in the High Street instead. Perhaps there is some sense in what they do…..?

I have two bins for green waste and pay £59 p.a. there has always been a charge for this never free. I also have three garden composters and two separate large pile of leaves. I recently had to do a running repair to the exterior of my garden fence which backs on to a smalll wooded area, I was horrified to find piles of building waste and garden refuse – made it difficult to access the fence. Some one had left a pile of earth about three feet high resting against one of my fence panels A neighbour had new fence panels and the workmen had just left the old panels lying in situ. Also same neighbour also now had gate which he was obviously using to dump old waste. It could be a very pleasant local amenity with violets, cowslips and celandine, birds and insects. I will now have to get on to Council to try to get this cleared.
I took some old electrical items and textiles to the local small recycling centre. The bins were overflowing and people had just chucked the rubbish which they had brought – also old furniture just left – which could have done to freecycle. I took mine home and rang the Council.
I partly blame this on marketing, buy, buy, buy, mostly expensive bling – as long as one’s own little corner is bling, just chuck out the rest somewhere.
And don’t get me started on the standards of housing insulation in this country which is very poor………………………………………………………..