Simplified recycling bin collections planned for homes and businesses

The UK Government has kick-started the process for introducing unified and simplified recycling rules for homes, businesses and public sector bodies in England, after first promising changes more than five years ago.

Simplified recycling bin collections planned for homes and businesses

Recycling Minister Robbie Moore has outlined plans to end the existing “patchwork” approach to which materials are collected, which currently varies based on region and on the type of property they are collected from.

Such an approach was first promised under the Resources and Waste Strategy at its initial publication in December 2018. Key facets of the Strategy have faced repeated delays due to Covid-19 and the two consecutive changes in Prime Minister in 2022.

Councils will be required to collect lass, metal, plastic, paper and card  from homes by the end of March 2026.

The Government will encourage local authorities to shift to one dry mixed recycling bin for homes. This will not be mandatory, but heavily recommended.

The Government is also looking to boost recycling rates among businesses and the public sector. By the end of March next year, councils in England will need to ensure that non-domestic properties including businesses and schools benefit from the same recycling material collections as local homes.

Exemptions will apply for a further two years to micro-businesses with fewer than ten employees.

Moore said the changes “will end confusion” and help families and workers to “do their bit to increase recycling and reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill”.

These changes build on a Government pledge to provide weekly food waste collections to all homes in England by 2026.

The UK Government is aiming to achieve a 65% recycling rate for municipal waste by 2035, as part of the Environment Act. The Act also includes an ambition to halve residual waste per person by 2042 on the 2019 baseline of 574kg per capita.

The Office for Environmental Protection, the UK’s environment watchdog, warned in January that meeting these targets will be “challenging” due to previously “ineffective” strategies for decreasing residual waste and increasing recycling rates.

It did note some “policy advances in this area” but has urged Ministers to, in tandem, implement key Resources and Waste Strategy pledges with urgency and to plan for the policies needed in the 2030s.

Industry reaction

While the initial reaction to the simpler recycling rules has been positive, some industry bodies are warning of potential caveats and urging Ministers to consider potential challenges from the outset.

The Recycling Association’s chief executive Paul Sanderson said: “While it is good that all local authorities in England will collect the same core materials of paper and card, plastic, metal and glass, I ask them to consider the impact on quality from any changes they make to their household collections.

“To enable access to markets as part of a global circular economy, and to create circular products from these materials, we need to ensure that they are collected and sorted to maximise quality with minimal contamination.”

Sanderson also requested further clarity on the potential benefits of a Deposit Return Scheme for drinks containers if these packaging formats are to be collected at all households. His preferred solution is a digital Scheme whereby used containers can be placed in mixed recycling and the deposit still paid back to the right homes and businesses.

The Chartered Institute of Wastes Management’s (CIWM) director of innovation and technical services, Lee Marshall, similarly advocated for further details to be provided to local authorities on shifting to dry mixed recycling.

Marshall additionally called the Government’s plan to mandate councils to collect residual waste at least fortnightly “baffling”, stating that this could disincentivise recycling and push up costs for councils.

Comments (2)

  1. Rob Heap says:

    …And what about source segregated waste food?
    This is not being rolled out fast enough by Councils.

  2. Philip Tutt says:

    Paul Sanderson’s comments about integrating DRS with the council collection sounds great in principle, but I wonder how it can be made to work in practice?
    Wiser (and more technically advanced) heads than mine will have to work out things like:
    1. Do we tell residents not to crush cans and PET containers any more? I can’t see how they could be read otherwise.
    2. What is the impact on route times / operative payments of having them scan each item at kerbside so money goes back to the right householder.
    3. How do we secure a deposit paid to a retailer which is then presumably paid back by the local authority (via council tax rebate?) to each householder in a robust and affordable system?

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