UK councils shrink wheelie bins

Updated: 

Southampton City Council protest

Around 25% of UK local authorities are issuing bins up to 50% smaller to save costs and hit recycling targets. It's thought the changes have hit almost 6m people. Worse, many local authorities have switched to fortnightly bin collections, exacerbating the problem of too-small bins in some areas.

What does this mean for UK households?

Cut down to size

The number of councils supplying smaller bins has hit 94, almost a doubling from 59 in 2010 according to recently published figures. The reduction in bin size typically sees a 240-litre wheelie bin being cut to 180 litre or 140 litres.

One major reason for smaller bins is that recycling is on the up. Smaller bins are, of course, cheaper, though councils have to spend more on other recycling bins - like kitchen slop buckets.

Recently Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles published the 'Bins Bible' offering tips to local authorities on how they could return to weekly bin collections (download it here). But with many councils struggling to hit recycling targets, the trend for smaller bins looks looks likely to stay.

Fly-tipping fears

Doretta Cocks, from the Campaign for Weekly Waste Collection told the Telegraph the move to smaller bins was a backwards step, "leading to fly tipping and rubbish being piled in back gardens. They think if they limit the capacity for waste then people will recycle more. They are wrong."

"I have real concerns for large families. That's when people start going round and leaving rubbish in their neighbours bins, which leads to conflict.

Don't expect too many councils to re-trench. Under EU law, Britain has to recycle half of all household waste by 2020; currently 43% of waste is recycled. The recycling is particularly needed for plastics. The world's consumption of plastic materials has soared from around five million tonnes in the 1950s to around 100 million annually.

What a waste

Not-for-profit recycling organisation WRAP says the total amount of UK household food and drink waste has been slashed by 1.3m tonnes to 7m since 2007 and avoidable food and drink waste has been cut by 1.1m tonnes from 5.3m to 4.2m. However the rate of reduction is slowing.

WRAP also estimates that the average UK household throws away the equivalent of six meals every week, costing us as a nation £12.5 billion a year - or £60 a month for the average family.

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