Is The Inner-City Bin At Risk Of Becoming ‘Homeless’?

Dave-BuckleyDave Buckley, Envac UK’s sales manager, says that the traditional bin may be nearing the end of its life. Why? Because there are alternative systems that he thinks can suit the needs of residents and waste companies better…


As someone who has responsibility for selling an alternative to the traditional bin, you may read this with a degree of scepticism. However, I will say it as I see it: the inner city bin is in danger of becoming obsolete.

Of course, this sweeping statement does not apply to all developments and local authorities in London and other densely populated cities; but there are an increasing number of cases where it does apply, and here’s why.

Generally speaking, waste collection is addressed by bins. The bigger the development, the greater the number of bins a local authority provides. In many cases this is not a sustainable, long-term or even practical solution.

Why? Because of urbanisation and its consequences. Cities can no longer develop outwards as the space to do so is no longer available. As a result, developments are being pushed skyward which, in turn, is placing more pressure on developments’ waste collection strategies as a result of the high unit density – and therefore high waste output – per footprint ratio.

overloaded-binMany cities in the UK are currently building at densities of 250 homes per square hectare. Some parts of London are even developing 400 homes per hectare. At this level you have to ask “where are all the bins going to go?”.

In cases where you have 8,500 1,100-litre Eurobins on a development at all times, the local authority will require at least 12 refuse collection vehicles working to full capacity every day to empty them. And that’s before you factor in the time and cost associated with physically moving them from where they’re stored to the collection vehicle, which will only reduce the efficiency of the 12 vehicles.

Not only will increased traffic movements increase the risk of accidents and congestion, but also with this level of vehicle movements attributable to waste collection, it will also significantly increase the development’s carbon footprint, too. And let’s not forget how there are many developments – existing and planned – throughout the UK whereby vehicular access will not be easy.

Leaving A Waste Legacy

The good news is that local authorities now understand the challenge they face and are beginning to act accordingly in order to leave a waste legacy for their borough to be proud of 25 years from now.

Work commissioned by the London Waste & Recycling Board (LWARB) also seeks to explore smarter approaches to conventional waste management by looking at underground refuse systems as a way in which to free up increasingly valuable aboveground space. LWARB has also committed to support London’s ongoing development by helping to create a dialogue that, to date, hasn’t existed by enabling big planning decisions to be made with a strategic and long-term overview.

From my perspective, blindly continuing to roll out bins across developments that can no longer physically house them is not only irresponsible but something that could lead to a waste-led crisis that has the potential to eclipse anything we have seen before.

If we are to continue as we are, with little regard for the future, then the end result will be streets lined with rows upon rows of overfull bins and waste collection that is clunky, manually intensive and dangerous; none of which present the UK in its best light or showcase it as a modern, clean and competitive country.

In the 21st century, and when there is more pressure than ever on the UK to be able to compete on a global platform, it is time to reconsider the use of waste collection practices based on the horse and cart approach. The alternatives exist. We just need to adopt alternative methods of thinking and be prepared to embrace them.


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