diamond geezer

 Wednesday, October 27, 2021

One of the ways you can tell you've crossed from one London borough to another is because the bins change. And it's not just a different logo, it's a completely different set of receptacles.

In Hackney, for example, you might find a grey wheelie bin, a brown wheelie bin, a blue food caddy and a stack of plastic sacks. One street away in Islington suddenly it's a squat black dustbin, a green recycling box and a brown food caddy.

This is because there isn't a pan-London waste disposal service - every council organises its refuse and recycling in a different way, and some are very different indeed.

I wondered which borough insists you have the most bins, which the fewest, and where in London the most anomalous refuse service might be. And then I tried to knock up a table.

n.b. My data assumes you live in a house, not in a flat or somewhere communally awkward.
n.b. This is why I've omitted the City of London.

Fortnightly collections are underlined.
All other collections are weekly.

n.b. I've had to use council websites to source the information.
n.b. Some of these are really unhelpful, fixating on how to cope with anomalies rather that what the local system actually is.
n.b. Because of this sorry, my table will contain errors.
n.b. Residents can point out errors in this special comments box. comments

Barking & Dag2binbin£
Bexley4bin2 binsbin£
Brent3binbin & bagbin£
Bromley12 boxesbin£
Croydon4bin2 binsbin£
Ham & Fulham3binbinbinfree
Hounslow2bin3 boxesbin£
Ken & Chelsea0bags(trial)£
Kingston3binbin & boxbin£
Merton3binbin & boxbin£
Redbridge1bin2 boxesfree
Richmond4bin2 boxesbin£
Sutton3binbin & boxbin£
Tower Hamlets1bagsbinfree
Waltham Forest3binbinbin

I confess, that is a lot more diverse than I expected it to be.

Two London boroughs (Bexley and Croydon) expect you to have four bins. In each case this is one bin for non-recyclable waste, one for food waste and two for recycling. The recycling split is so there can be one bin for mixed paper and cardboard and one bin for plastics, cans, jars and bottles. If you additionally subscribe to these boroughs' garden waste services that'd be five bins, but I'm not counting garden waste so it's four. Whatever, that's a crowded cluster to have to find space for.

About half of London's boroughs expect you to have three bins - one for non-recyclable waste, one for food waste and one for recycling. Four of these (Brent, Merton, Kingston and Sutton) also want you to split your recycling but the additional receptacle is a box or a bag, not a bin.

At the other end of the scale, four boroughs provide no bins whatsoever. Havering does everything with plastic sacks - black for refuse and orange for recycling. Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster provide plastic sacks for recycling but nothing for refuse. Wandsworth expects your general rubbish to be bagged inside a bin you've provided yourself. According to Wandsworth's website "All rubbish in dustbins must also be contained in refuse sacks" and "We do not supply dustbins or rubbish sacks", because that's the consequence of living in a borough with a rock bottom council tax.

Bromley doesn't mind if your non-recyclable waste is in a bin or in bags, but no longer provides either. Hillingdon and Tower Hamlets expect you to provide your own bags for general waste but issue free bags for recycling. The only bin provided in these three boroughs is a food caddy. Islington is similarly blunt - "Please note, we do not provide residents with free wheelie bins or dustbins". A lot of residents still have the old bin the council once provided, as seen in the photo at the top of the post, but it's not exactly capacious. Islington's only designated bin is its brown food caddy. All recyclables go into an unbranded green open-topped box.

Several boroughs provide recycling boxes rather than recycling bins, this to enable residents to split their waste. Hounslow are the keenest box providers, requiring households to have a red one for plastic and metal cans, a blue one for card and paper and a green one for glass bottles and jars. Throw in bins for rubbish, food waste and (optionally) garden waste and Hounslow is London's receptacliest borough with six.

Only five London boroughs don't yet recycle food waste - Barking & Dagenham, Barnet, Havering, Newham and Redbridge. Outer East London fares very badly in that list. As for Kensington & Chelsea, Wandsworth and Westminster, these have small trials in certain parts of the borough but the vast majority of residents currently have no doorstep food waste collection.

When it comes to garden waste, two-thirds of boroughs charge for this service whereas one-third provide it for free. Most of the lucky boroughs are in Inner London where gardens are generally small or non-existent. The only Outer London boroughs with free garden waste collections are Hillingdon, Redbridge and Waltham Forest. In Greenwich and Waltham Forest all garden waste is to be chucked in with the food waste, whereas in the other boroughs it goes in a separate bin.

Just over half of London boroughs still provide weekly collections for rubbish, recycling and food waste, but many have switched to 'more efficient' timetables. Bexley, Brent, Hackney, Haringey and Lewisham recycle weekly but only collect rubbish every fortnight. Bromley, Croydon, Ealing, Enfield, Harrow, Kingston, Merton, Southwark and Sutton have gone full-on frugal and now collect everything (except food waste) in alternate weeks. Kensington & Chelsea, by contrast, collect twice weekly.

Refuse collection systems often change, especially when there are savings to be made. For example Hackney residents have only had their grey refuse bin since the start of the year, and Redbridge is currently in the process of switching from sacks to wheelie bins. There'd be a lot more savings to be made if councils clubbed together, either in small groups or across London as a whole. But perhaps it's for the best that refuse collection remains a local service decided locally... even if sometimes it means doorsteps look completely different on opposite sides of the street.

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