Weekly bin collections are a basic human right

Filed in Blog by on October 24, 2011 21 Comments
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Weekly bin collections - a basic, human right?

Weekly bin collections - a basic, human right?

Instead of a round up of three stories from around the net this week, I wanted to bring your attention to one story in particular.

How can we fail to notice all the stories in the press this month about weekly bin collections?

Yes our friend Eric Pickles has offered councils who keep, or re-instate the weekly bin run a £250million bribe incentive.

“Every household in England has a basic right to have their rubbish collected each week”, says Eric.

A story in our local paper showed Gloucester council were not to be tempted. Residents have complained the fortnightly collections lead to pile-ups of rubbish on the streets, but our council don’t agree; saying the fortnightly bin collections have been a success.

Over in my neck of the woods we still have weekly landfill collections, but all that is set to change mid next year.

We’ll be joining the ranks of our local city and getting food waste collections along with fortnightly bin collections. What is now a free service, our green waste collections, will now have to be paid for – £26 per year.

Over on this brilliant article, journalist Robert Powell has turned a ‘problem’ into a ‘solution’ with his 8 ways to turn your trash into cash.

I’d love to hear your thoughts; what do you think of weekly collections returning and what are your secrets for turning trash into cash?

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (21)

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  1. Karen says:

    I find 2 weekly general rubbish and garden waste pickup for me works. They still collect our recycled rubbish every week. We have a small box for compost which is all food waste including bones and meat. Taking that out of the general rubbish has reduced the smell. They also collect paper/plastics/batteries and glass weekly.Doing all that should mean there is very little left for 2 weekly pickup.
    Most of my food waste goes into a wormery which makes a very potent fertilizer for the garden.

  2. Ellen Perrin says:

    Daily collections would be great like they have in Spain! Where my parents lived, there were biffa bins on every road (general/paper/glass/cans) and these were emptied every night. Some were even replaced recently with underground containers with colour-coded chutes, making it visually and (aroma-ly!) less obtrusive. Absolutely great idea – no dustbin by your back door, no build-up of rubbish in your home 🙂

  3. Ann Knight says:

    I have to say that we are perfectly happy with our system which works well for us. We have a green landfill bin collected fortnightly, alternate fortnight collections are for the blue recycling bin and ours takes: Glass, Plastic bottles, newspaper/ paper/a small amount of shredding wrapped in newspaper, cardboard, yoghurt cartons, food trays, tetrapaks, cans. We have a garden waste collection (paid for yearly) in a brown bin collected with the green bin fortnightly. We have weekly food waste in a smaller green caddy. We do not need a weekly collection as long as we stick to the rules, our land fill bin is rarely more than a third full and that is mainly of cellophane type wrappings. So well done Tewkesbury B.C.

  4. Whether we like it or not, the areas with the highest recycling rates are those where landfill waste is collected fortnightly. So, if we accept the importance of recycling, it seems sensible to have fortnightly collections for landfill waste.

  5. Julie Day says:

    I think everyone should have weekly collections. We still have them. But then maybe if people did have fortnightly ones, they would be more inclined to recycle more. We don’t have garden waste collections, we have to take it to a special recycling site, and I know my mum would love a collection. I don’t think it’s right that people should have to pay to recycle.

  6. Jane says:

    It is more important to REDUCE the total amount of waste that we produce than to increase the recycling rates. I now that where my mother lives has wheelie bins and high recycling rates. Once a bin was provided for garden waste where my mother lives in the country people who were composting got lazy and used it. Once a food waste bin was provided I myself got lazy here in the city and used that instead of a wormery. Recycling rates are not all they seem. We still need less packaging and for it all to be recyclable and the labelling to be clear. Foil covered cardboard and unidentified plastic is still too common.

  7. Poppy 2 says:

    We have a collection of waste every week insofar as something is collected. Week 1 is residual waste in green wheelie, with brown garden waste wheelie and food waste caddy. Week 2 is recycling boxes (glass, plastic bottles, cans, paper, foil & card) and food waste.

    The residual waste sadly seems to be causing the most problems for people in the area now and there is an big anti green waste campaign that is causing havoc at the local recyling centre with all those that refuse to have a compost bin or a brown wheelie because of the cost. We share a brown bin with a neighbour, but we’ve only used about 4 times. The compost bin has eaten the rest!

  8. Kate says:

    It kind of strikes me as funny (in a sad sort of way) that people are saying, “come every week and take it away! There’s too much trash!” instead of thinking, “Wow, I make a lot of trash…maybe I should think more about what I waste…” Not to be harsh, but I think lots of people where I live could do well to be slightly less insulated from the fact that when we throw something “away” it does, in fact, pile up someplace…

  9. Kate says:

    A county next to mine operates something called a “dirty murf” (sp?) wherein trash is collected without its makers ever having to separate anything, then it is sorted by workers and recycled, composted, or land-filled appropriately. It’s good in the sense that less plastic bottles end up in the ground, but bad in the sense that nobody has to think about their waste so there’s no reason to even try to make less.

  10. Jill says:

    Here in Cairns Australia we have weekly collections of our rubbish – and fortnightly of recycling. Generally I’d be happy if our rubbish was only collected fortnightly – except in summer, when the heat and humidity makes it too smelly to last that long! Encouraging people to recycle and educating people about alternatives to throwing things away would need to be done first – before reducing the frequency of collections. Thanks for the link to the article making cash from trash. It spurred me on to see what equivalents we have here in Australia – I’m finding some great sites now!

  11. Ann Knight says:

    Just an afterthought, by paying a not very large annual amount for our garden waste bin, which incidentally we use in addition to two large compost bins, we avoid having to make car journeys to the main waste disposal. This saves us petrol and the environment pollution. I think it is money well spent and don’t grudge spending it at all. We expect too much for nothing these days. From spring to early winter our brown bin is full, usually with hard wood which can’t be composted.

  12. Jane says:

    I like our system as it is – weekly. I think the fortnightly system is used by Councils as a way of pushing home the idea of recycling with those people who refuse to do anything at all. This is because it is less unpopular politically… and politics unfortunately often seems to matter more than the environment or anything else.

    It is a shame to spend all that money on giving everyone enormous bins and cluttering up our tiny Victorian front gardens with these hideously large lumps of plastic. It is also a shame to have huge bin collecting lorries spending so much time completely blocking the narrow roads and making so much noise about it and leaving bins standing all over the place. I would like to see much smaller bins and gardens with some plants in them rather than concreted over wheelie bin parks. Wheelie bins are too big for the amount of waste many people make and don’t encourage reduction. They also stink as they are nose-high and plastic holds smell. As someone else said recycling rates go up. Yes, but so does the amount of waste created.

    Torbay went back to boxes. Many London boroughs have compulsory recycling (ie you must do some recycling) and when they started this they found that their recycling rates went up too. They sent Recycling Officers in to help those that don’t already recycle get started. More information increases the recycling rate. Many people only get this when the contract changes. There will have been no information given out for years and then guess what there is when the contract changes and surprise surprise the recycling rates go up. This is used for political reasons too.

    We keep being told that it has to be easy… but for most people it isn’t difficult. That is just an excuse.

    There is a report which suggests that a way for Councils to make money is to charge for garden waste collection. They increased their recycling by offering it free and now they want to charge. Some may prefer this – others may prefer to concrete over their gardens or burn their waste, or dump it or put it in the landfill bag or bin or go back to composting. Whatever people decide to do I don’t believe the take up will be the same as there was when it was free – so I hope they have got their sums right because it must cost a lot to set it up.

  13. Jane says:

    @Ann Knight: I am intrigued by your “brown bin being full of hard wood” that is not compostable and wonder whether you can elaborate and whether anyone on here can come up with alternatives to landfilling it.

  14. Poppy 2 says:

    Clean wood (not painted I suppose) , is collected seperatley at the bring sites, but don’t know if Ann means cut wood or woody plants. With the green waste collection, it’s supposed to take anything up to the thickness of your wrist.

  15. Ann Knight says:

    No, not white wood. We have quite a few hard wood type shrubs in the garden which need constant pruning. Those branches won’t rot down so they go in the garden waste bin where hopefully they have a shredder for hard wood waste. We don’t have a huge garden but it is well stocked. Our two compost bins which are filled regularly are sufficient for our needs. The garden waste we know goes to make compost as well so I have no worries about sending our surplus for council use. So as Poppy says, yes woody plants and tree cuttings up to the thickness of the wrist.

  16. Ann Knight says:

    I also don’t see any reason for bins to smell. There is no food or vegetable waste in either of the waste bins, and if wrappers from around fish and meat are washed before putting in the bin and can, jars, tetra packs, yogurt pots etc are washed there should be no smell from the recycling bin either. But people have to be re-educated to wash their waste before binning it.

    I can’t see councils replacing the large wheelie bins with smaller bins because of the cost. Maybe they should consider the houses where there is no storage space for larger bins. Although at the back of my mind I seem to recall that there are smaller bins available for people in those circumstances.

  17. Jane says:

    If you don’t separate your food waste then either your landfill bin or your green waste bin (some Councils collect garden and food waste together) will smell and if they are the big wheelie bins then this is nose-high so far more noticeable and unpleasant to deal with. Also because of their size these bins are more difficult to locate.

    We have had a separate weekly food waste collection for the last five years or more. I think this is absolutely brilliant. It has replaced the under-sink bin and it is so much nicer to take this locking bucket out for collection than a large black smelly dripping black plastic bag. If a collection is weekly then if you go on holiday and miss a week then it is no problem and no problem if even longer. It just needs to be kept cool (easier when bucket-sized) and putting a layer of newspaper or shredded paper on the top also helps. If it was two weekly then immediately you miss a collection then it is immediately a month’s food waste… That is bad enough. I really wouldn’t want to miss two!

    We can easily go two weeks without putting our green box of recycling out. Flattening cardboard and cans and tetrapaks makes a lot of difference. There doesn’t seem to be so much glass anymore. We use the milkman as well as topping up with plastic bottle milk when necessary. Flattening these plastic bottles also makes a big difference. It is plastic I hate. So much from the supermarket and the identification of it is poor. Plastic bags are becoming less identifiable rather than more with the BRC symbols.

    We currently have reusable plastic bags for garden waste. These are great because you can roll them up when not in use. We have the same for plastics. We put plastics out about once a month and garden waste maybe twice a year. Giving people enormous wheelie bins can’t possible encourage a reduction of waste.

    Some Councils have reduced the size of the wheelie bins or gone back to boxes. The Dispatches programme was very interesting. Going through the big wheelie bin process seems such an expensive way to start people recycling – just because party politics has made it impossible for Governments and Councils to make recycling (of some recyclates) compulsory. It is quite pathetic.

    The Government could do more. They could for a start make the point that something is not necessarily ‘recyclable’ because the collectors took it away this week or always take it away! It is recyclable as far as we are concerned because that is what the Council has a recycling contract for. They could also question those Councils who are not giving their residents good clear information (and in downloadable pdf format). We should all also be questioning our Councils if we do not think that their information is clear. We pay our Council taxes for this and they won’t get a good collection which they can get a good price for unless they do so.

    We should also be asking our Councils where our recycling is going.

  18. Jane says:

    @Ann Knight: Ah – so a brown bin is your garden waste bin that the Council collects. Not having these things yet I misunderstood. At my mother’s I have to look at the top of each wheelie bin to tell which is landfill and which is garden waste/food waste. There only plastic bottles are collected and this is together with cans in a plastic bag. Paper and card goes in another plastic bag.

    We would have burnt anything we weren’t composting after drying it out as kindling in the winter. Once upon a time we would have burnt a lot more on the bonfire.

  19. Hazel says:

    We have alternate weekly collections of landfill waste and recycling/green waste, so something gets collected each week.

    This is fine for us, but a flip side of the ‘encouraging people to recycle’ aspect of it (and I’m all for anything that will persuade people to do something) is that I’m afraid a lot of people put their recyclables into whichever bin is being collected that week, just to get rid of it. I know our neighbours do.

    Aesthetically, I do dislike the wheelie bins, but having no better solution to offer I put up with them. We live in a fairly rural village where more frequent waste collections would cancel out any benefits through increased fuel consumption.
    We’ve swapped our standard size landfill bin for a slimline bin (that confused the telephone operative. I don’t think they get many requests that way round) for free. A bit of a gesture, it takes up slightly less room than the standard bin and has been (positively) noted by previously mentioned neighbours, especially as we are actually entitled to a bigger bin as a family of five.

    But when it comes down to it, I don’t think Eric Pickles should be able to influence local government in this way. Waste disposal is the responsibility of local councils. They pay for it and should be able to spend their budget as they see fit, albeit with lots of encouragement in the right direction from the likes of us! I do realise I’m lucky to have a district council that recycles pretty much everything, somewhere in the area. (Though I’d like to see kerbside glass and textile collections Cherwell!)

  20. Jane says:

    Shopping locally the other day someone told me we had to put all our recycling out together in the green box for collection. I thought it strange she thought that. We don’t of course.

    Ours is sorted kerbside and if we only have a couple of bottles I will leave them until we have a few more. This week I only put out the food waste. I usually put out a cereal packet of flattened cardboard as well every week but the cereal packet isn’t full this week so it can wait. Last week the box was half squashed tetrapaks and half squashed cans. Also if there is a build-up of paper or cans or glass I can take them to a supermarket or a street bank.

    Streetbanks are particularly important for shoes and clothing and other textiles as these are items which our Antipodean visitors often decide that they can’t take home once they’ve done Europe and the streetbank is open all hours every day. You can also choose to support your favourite charity shop..

  21. Jane says:

    @Hazel: ” I’m afraid a lot of people put their recyclables into whichever bin is being collected that week, just to get rid of it”. That was the impression that the Dispatches programme gave.

    It looks like the Recycling Rate only appears to go up – the quality isn’t good enough because the contents are not easily visible – and a lot that is initially recorded as Recycling has to be landfilled because it isn’t good enough. Education and publicity is not good enough. Politics neuters the policies.

    Morland Sanders should have invited Eric Pickles to sort out his home recycling and his Westminster recycling. In fact let’s see the lot of them doing it. We’ve already seen recently that Oliver Letwin needs a visit from the Recycling Officer.

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