How to navigate London's rubbish recycling services

The way we deal with waste differs in each of London's 33 boroughs, causing chaos and confusion. But one family is on a waste-cutting mission...
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Anyone who tried to get their local council to take away their Christmas tree after 12th night last week will know how arbitrary and chaotic the rules covering disposal of waste can be in London — with each borough dancing to a different tune. 

If you live in Islington, for instance, you've still got two days left to get your tree collected, and Merton's "dedicated tree collection crews" continue their patrols until January 25.

Some councils demand trees are cut up to fit fully inside your organic waste bin. Others operate depots for you to drop off your tree, including Westminster which has 23 collection points operating until January 22, while those in Enfield's parks close on January 18. 
Built-in Wesco Trio recycle bins, £114.95 at

As for the rest of the year, every borough has a different policy and system when it comes to waste collection and recycling — just look at the variety of bins and different-coloured bin bags on the city's streets.

Services can differ even within the same borough, depending on whether you live in a house, tower or low-rise block.

London's landlords are generally lazy about enforcing recycling and as more than 50 per cent of young Londoners rent, that can be a lot of wasted waste. 

Renters, meanwhile, on the move from borough to borough, find recycling systems confusing. In shared housing it takes only one person not to care and the whole system fails.
Stackable Sortera recycling bins, £6 each at


we have bags for plastics and garden waste, a box for food waste and another box for glass, paper, cans, etc.
in Brent we have 3 bins - rubbish, re-cycling and organic waste. But each one comes only every 2 weeks!!
In Southwark we've compostable waste, mixed (glass,paper,plastic,metal) & non-recycle bins. Food taken weekly, other 2 bi-weekly.
Fulham clear bag for recycling mixed, and rest in black bags collected weekly no green waste.

@_kristygray Lewisham: recycling bins can be ordered & are collected separately, on same day of week as black wheelie bins
Greenwich weekly waste & mixed recycs & food/garden for compost collected. 3 wheelie bins provided, 2 sizes offered
LB Hounslow provide separate containers for recycling and wheeled bins for waste, but they still manage to leave rubbish around!.
‏@J_Sowa  Croydon
- separate boxes provided for plastic/glass + small food waste bins. Picked up every other week.

@andrewdunning Islington is a green bin for bottles, paper, plastic - caddy for food waste - big reusable bags for green waste - superb service! also everything is picked up every week thankfully - the foxes and squirrels are a pest attacking them as it is!
my neighbour has trellis and others do but most don't. I could put one up but it's about no.1000 on my house to do list.
Hello - Westminster - no separated waste collection
we recycle paper,plastic,glass at the recycling bins in the street. Everything else in one bin.
Hackney provide garden-waste bins, food-waste bins and recycling (paper, card, glass etc) bags
In Canterbury we have landfill, garden, recycling with separate compartments for paper and glass plus a food bin.
Waltham Forest - I've 3 bins; recycling, garden waste & food and rubbish.

Food for thought
London households each bin food worth £660 a year, while the national average is £572. About 75 per cent of London households recycle paper and cardboard but this falls to 37 per cent for food waste, despite the food "caddies" now supplied by many councils.

These figures come from the Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Appliances which, not surprisingly, suggests waste disposal units would help. They cost from about £70 up to £350, plus fitting.

Waste not, want not: recycling is a way of life for Sarah Johnson, Max and Milly

Sarah Johnson, mother of Milly, nine, and Max, five, is a recycler par excellence, with an eco-design degree from Goldsmiths. She and her partner, Jason Allcorn, founded the [re]design social enterprise to encourage sustainable products, lifestyles and strategies.

They produce recycling craft books, run exhibitions and workshops, and renovated a VW camper van with sustainable materials.

Home is a 1959 end-ofterrace house in Croydon, where they keep two bins for paper and other recyclables, with three more under the kitchen sink — one for metals, plastic, glass and Tetra Pak, a second for more paper and cardboard, and the third for non-recyclables.

Even Max uses the correct council-supplied bins. A council plastic food caddy has been upgraded to a metal one, outgrown toys and clothes go to friends, and worn-out items to charity.


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