Separating waste

I was not sure of posting this as it makes us look bad, so sorry about this.

Over the last few, what, decades, domestic waste collection has changed. And mostly without us noticing!

It all started a long time ago, we used to have a "dustbin" and any number of black bags taken away by the council. They had a legal obligation to remove all domestic waste.

Then one day it was "green wheelie bin", and they provided one. There were sizes for different houses. At this time we had five kids, and, I think, a lodger. We made plenty of domestic waste. We got a big bin.

So it was wheelie bin and extra bags.

Then the council said they would not take extra bags - it was because the vehicles were all set up for wheelie bins now. It made it much more efficient. So I asked.. "If it is more efficient, how much can I expect to see a reduction on my council tax bill?", and I did not get a sensible answer. I asked how they know it is more efficient, with no helpful answer!

Anyway, they said they were not restricting the amount of waste we produce, but it was a limitation of the vehicles, so I suggested "fine, empty the wheelie bin, then put the extra bags in the empty bin, and empty that". It was a simple and practical solution, but for some reason they were not happy to do that, suggesting their "reason" for not doing it was not as they said.

The answer was simple.

We purchased another wheelie bin!

For some time, many years, this worked, even when we moved house. And many locals had an extra wheelie bin.

Then, one day, with a note saying the would now only collect one wheelie bin, they stole our extra wheelie bin! I meant to sue them for the cost.

I gave up!

This is very unlike me, but I decided to give up!

Just to be clear, I was not giving up on recycling or trying to avoid it. At the time the council only did the one type of collection - the general waste green wheelie bin. My issue is they stole one of our bins and refused to actually collect all the waste we produced.

So I simply engaged a commercial bin collection at the house.

I kept meaning to bill the council for this on the basis they had a legal obligation to collect all domestic waste, and were failing. I never got around to it.

When we moved, 3 years ago, we kept the commercial collection, simples. Why not?

Left out of the loop here

The problem is we have been left out of the loop here. For decades now we have simply put all rubbish in one bin, with black bags, and that was it, as we have for decades before.

Whilst others have gone through many changes of many coloured bins and bags and so on, we have not.

Turning over a new leaf...

As Wales have now made even commercial properties do waste separation, we have to get in to this, all of a sudden. This is a bit of a shock.

It does not look too hard, honest. Cans, bottles, card and paper, etc.

It seems laws have changed over the many years. We have not had to notice.

So yes, we are finally doing the domestic waste separation - thrown in the deep end. I am almost shocked you cannot just pay someone to do that for you - seems an obvious commercial opportunity.

It means a place in the house for the various bags, and bins, and containers. Finding what day they collect each. But I am sure we will manage.

Thanks to one of my daughter's for help with this.

Doing things right.

As someone says, I like to do things right, and we do have solar power generation we feed in to the grid and a green energy tariff and so on. I don't drive, and have not for decades. We had not actively tried to avoid waste separation, but to be honest I have not looked in to it either. It all kicked off with the council being arseholes and stealing our bin, and then it was a non issue as we got a commercial bin.

I am not entirely convinced the pushing responsibility on to individuals just going about their lives is the answer to climate issues, when so many big industries dwarf anything we can do, to be honest, but I do understand we do all need to take things seriously, and I already do quite a bit - just not this specific bit until now. Sorry. And I chose to post this to say sorry to some extent.


Wow, it is crazy, there seem to be no standards. I decided it would be a good idea to get some partitioned and/or stacked bins for the house. Make sense.

But the labelling and colours do not match what the council have. And the categories do not match. E.g. we have a green plastic tub for glass, but tins go in with plastic. Yet almost all bins you can by combined glass and tins in one bin, so would have misleading labelling, and nothing matches the colours.


  1. Some councils have contracts with companies that can do the sorting automatically so no need for home separating.

  2. The main "benefit" to wheelie bins (and probably where the claimed efficiency comes from) is the fact that the rubbish is no longer lifted by a human at any point in the process (save for pivoting it to wheel) which I imagine has numerous health and safety benefits. Risk of heavy items, risk of bag splitting, risk of stuff being sharp etc. From that point of view I can understand why they didn't like your proposal of "just lift the bag". It always amazes me that you're only allowed one bin though.

    Would have been interesting to see if they'd have let you re-fill the bin yourself and then empty it for you.

  3. I'm saddened that you have not been separating your waste all these years. You claim you like to do things right, but clearly you have not been doing so when it comes to waste. I've had separate wheelie bins for compostable inc food waste (green bin), recyclable (blue bin) and landfill (black bin) for so long I can't remember when they were introduced, it's at least two decades.

    1. Sorry, and it would not have happened had the council not been arseholes and nicked our wheelie bin in the first place.

    2. Who determines what is right? Why is separating waste "right"? Our biggest threat is climate change, and recycling your plastic (which often means, "put it in landfill in a poor country"), doesn't help climate change.

      In any case, I imagine the commercial service RevK used to collect his waste probably sorted it for him.

  4. It does very much depend on the council, here in Ipswich, I only have two bins, a black and a blue.

  5. I have no problem with separating waste, but I do have a problem with councils being so presumptuous. 3/4 of our waste is recycling, the remainder rubbish (mainly packaging that can't be recycled). We compost our own food but the council also offers this too.

    1. Wheelie bins are totally different to normal bins so any existing bin store is made useless overnight.

    2. Most wheelie bins have council branding. I personally think my council are incompetent so don't want their ugly logo on my property. I'd be curious if I can demand sponsorship £.

    3. Like any standardised bit of kit, councils have a duty to provide an exact specification of what a wheelie bin is, so if we want to paint or buy our own wheelie bin or have a different colour, we can from any supplier meeting the spec. Do they provide this? Of course not.

    4. Specific to my own council in London, our council was part of the triborough initiative. A single council is too small an area for a waste collection to be cost effective, so 3 councils teamed together to offer services across all 3. It made a lot of sense, and meant that covering all 3 boroughs, the bin men were happy to take normal bins. But instead our council decided this is too efficient and imposed wheelie bins on a contract solely covering their own borough, even though most properties have very limited and very specific sizes for their bin stores. We've ended up with wheelie bins strewn across streets and pavements. Useless!

    5. I think a national framework is needed. Same for parking apps. We're either all in or all out. These local authorities seem to forget all too easily they serve us.

  6. It seems strange that you're having to separate recyclables into multiple bins. In Surrey we have one black bin for general waste and one blue bin for all recyclables, plus the small green food caddy. At the office it's even easier because the waste company does all of the sorting at their end (although it's presumably a commercial collection rather than anything organised by the council).

    Then again, we're not ruled over by Mark Drakeford. In a few years you'll probably be forced to personally carry all your waste to the nearest recycling centre while state-funded members of Extinction Rebellion throw eggs at you.

    1. Curious, what's a food caddy in this context?

      My parents house in Newcastle gets a green bin for general waste, a blue bin for all recyclables (with a compartment for glass) and a brown bin for garden waste.

      Meanwhile I live in a block of flats and there's no recycling collection at all, everything just goes into a general bin - no idea if there's any separation after it's collected or if it all goes to landfill.

  7. Waste collection and recycling is a complete dog's breakfast. Besides all the different methods up and down the country, with a serious multiplicity of bins in some areas, the process is to enlist an army of amateurs, us, to attempt to sort stuff using a variety of different rules. A uniform standard using a professional sorting process would have been much better but I can't see it changing now and it will continue to irritate much of the population.

  8. Four wheelie bins here. A green one for food and garden waste, a red one for cardboard and paper, a blue one for (some) plastics, glass, foil, cans and black one for non-recyclables. Green and black emptied weekly, blue and red go out alternate weeks.

  9. In our area we have 5 "bins": a black wheelie bin for general non-recyclable waste, a green wheelie bin for green garden waste (a separately paid for extra service), a brown food waste 'caddy', a minimum of two recycling boxes needed one for glass and the other for plastic, aluminium and tin cans. Oh and a separate blue bag for paper and cardboard waste. There's a proposal to have yet another box or bag for further separation.

    The council supplied recycling boxes are absolute rubbish, they don't even have proper lids just a sort of cover that you stretch over the top. It lasted less than 5 months before it became useless. I bought my own recycling boxes with tight fitting lids to avoid the recycling being blown down the public road.

  10. Plastics "recycling" is basically "send to incinerator plant" in the UK.

    Also I'm not sure if anyone has worked out why its "better" for end-users to wash containers out rather than put the load from the lorry through a "pre-wash". I can see why its better for company profits (trebles all round!) but I don't see how it helps the environment - especially with the way water companies behave - if we're collectively running millions of litres of water down the drain with bit of food attached. Why? So the cans are clean? They won't be after they've been in the lorry.

    If you have a garden of any size then look at "Hotbox" composters as they'll take care of a fair bit of cardboard over the year (they need it). This was a bit of a gamechanger for us in terms of less "stuff" in the green bin.

    The tl;dr is depressing if you take the time to look. Most "recyclables" in the UK aren't recycled at all - they're just incinerated. Plastics are apparently just about "impossible to recycle" effectively because there's little to no indication what they're made of so it "costs too much" to deal with them. The only thing which was recycled properly (glass) is now pretty much worthless (due to recycling) so it gets thrown into the ball mill with everything else.


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