Seven bins per house could be needed under ‘crazy’ new recycling laws

Waste bins
Waste bins

Households could need as many as seven bins to comply with new national waste-collection plans being drawn up by the Government.

Under new recycling plans due to be made public within a fortnight, councils will be under a duty to collect food waste weekly, as well as offer a basic free service to take away garden waste.

Local authorities are also required to collect separately glass, paper and cardboard, metal and plastic for recycling, as well as general rubbish. In theory, households could end up needing seven bins in total.

The Government was at pains to say there would be no legal requirement for that to happen and in any event was highly unlikely.

But under the new rules, it is expected councils will need to provide a written assessment to allow them to remove “two or more of the recyclable waste streams together”.

Get-out clause for councils

Local authorities would have to show it was either “not technically or economically practicable” to collect the different types of recycling separately – or that “there is no significant environmental benefit in doing so”.

The get-out clause would allow councils to collect the recycled waste – such as glass, paper and metal – from one bin and then separate the waste at a central depot.

The Government began a consultation on household and business recycling in May last year and Therese Coffey, Environment Secretary, is expected to publish its response by the middle of April. Ministers have been alarmed at the disparity across local authorities over their ability – or otherwise – to recycle waste and want to see greater consistency in England.

But local authorities have warned it “makes no sense” to introduce what one council leader described as a “national bin service”. The District Councils’ Network has estimated that implementing recycling changes will cost councils almost half-a-billion pounds a year for seven years.

Any more than four bins is ‘madness’

One prominent Conservative MP said on Sunday that any changes that left householders needing any more than four bins was “madness”.

Bob Blackman, MP for Harrow East and member of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities parliamentary committee, said: “It would be of great concern if we end up with huge numbers of types of bins. That would be madness. In urban environments, people already have four sets of bins and to go beyond that would be absolutely crazy.”

Ministers have been alarmed at the slow progress of councils in recycling waste material. While recycling rates in England rose from 11 per cent in 2001 to 45 per cent in 2015, they have since stagnated over the past seven years, putting in jeopardy the Government’s target of recycling two-thirds of all municipal waste by 2035 and eliminating “avoidable waste” entirely by 2050.

Public consultation

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs said: “We want to make recycling easier and ensure that there is a comprehensive, consistent service across England. This will help increase recycled material in the products we buy and boost a growing UK recycling industry.

“We have held a public consultation on the proposed changes and will announce further details shortly.”

A source said that “separate bins” for each type of recycling “isn’t a given or necessarily the norm”.

Councils that successfully completed the written assessment would be able to collect recycling waste from one bin and separate it at a central depot. That would prevent the need for extra bins, said the source.

The practice of collecting recycling in one bin or bag – known as comingle recycling – would continue under the new rules, the source insisted.