Bin collections: 1.8 million missed complaints in UK

By David Rhodes
BBC News

  • Published
Binman in ScotlandImage source, Alamy
Image caption,
Councils make over 800 million waste collections every year according to the Local Government Association

Councils in the UK received more than 1.8 million complaints last year about waste not being collected from homes, figures obtained by the BBC have shown.

A survey of councils found the number of complaints about missed collections has increased by a third since 2014.

On average, 4,500 complaints were made to UK councils every day last year.

The number of complaints may not correspond to the level of missed collections as some householders whose bins are not emptied may not report it.

Residents in England made 1.5m of the complaints, with 149,000 in Scotland, 92,000 in Wales and 33,000 in Northern Ireland.

Analysing figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), BBC News found real terms spending on waste collection by local authorities has fallen to £888m in 2017-18, from £1bn in 2010-11, after accounting for inflation.

Image caption,
Residents in some parts of the Hyde Park area of Leeds said their bins hadn't been emptied for a month

What the figures show

  • BBC News sent a Freedom of Information request to 391 local authorities responsible for waste collection in the UK.
  • 336 authorities provided responses, which showed that 1.8 million complaints were received in 2018 about non-recyclable, and recyclable waste not being collected.
  • Comparable data from 213 councils show the number of complaints in the UK has increased from 950,000 in 2014, to 1.3m in 2018, a rise of a third.

In real terms, spending on waste collection in England has fallen by 17% since 2010-11, figures show.

But the Local Government Association said 99.8% of bin collections went ahead without complaint.

Councillor Michael Michael, from Cardiff City Council, said cuts to the authority's budget had stretched local services.

"I've got to clean more streets with fewer men," Mr Michael told Good Morning Wales.

"We've had to reduce our overall budget by over £250m in recent years, and at some stage that is going to impact on services."

In Hyde Park, Leeds, residents said the council had not collected household rubbish for nearly a month.

"We see rats everywhere and it's just not a nice place to live in," said Miriam Muse, who made a complaint to Leeds City Council.

"The bins are overflowing and we've had this issue for a while and it's just really disgusting."

However, Councillor Mohammed Rafique said the authority's missed bin collection rate stood at 0.08% a year.

"We encourage people to get in contact with us if we miss bins, and we've made it easy for people to alert us through the use of social media and the council's mobile phone app," said Mr Rafique.

Image caption,
Hyde Park resident Miriam Muse said overflowing bins had meant rats are often seen in the street

Bin workers in Birmingham were on strike for almost three months in a dispute over job losses in 2017, which led to thousands of tonnes of rubbish piling up on the city's streets.

The amount of rubbish left in some streets led to residents taking action to clear up the waste themselves and business owners claiming the uncollected waste had affected trade.

The industrial action came to an end but residents in parts of the city reported problems with uncollected waste piling up again last year after new shift patterns for refuse collectors were rolled out.

From Monday bins in Birmingham will be collected fortnightly as workers prepare for further walk-outs.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Thousands of tonnes of waste were left on Birmingham's streets during a three-month strike in 2017

Speaking on behalf of councils in England, Councillor Martin Tett, from the Local Government Association (LGA), said: "Councils carry out around 821 million waste collections from households per year - not including recycling collections - these figures actually show that 99.8% of bin collections were completed without complaint.

"Between 2010 and 2020, councils will have lost almost 60p out of every £1 the government had provided for services and councils in England face an overall funding gap of £8bn by 2025."

A spokeswoman for MHCLG said: "Authorities are receiving £1bn extra in funding this coming year to help deliver local services.

"We want councils to respond to the wishes of local people, many of whom want to see bin collections as frequently as possible."