Green blue black bin van
The green, blue and black system stays – but black bins will be emptied once a fortnight

Rubbish that can’t be recycled will only be collected every fortnight in Greenwich borough under changes to be approved next week – but plans to charge residents for garden waste collections have been thrown out for now.

Greenwich will join 15 other London boroughs in ending weekly collections of non-recycled waste – which are collected in black-topped bins in the borough – though recycling and food and garden waste will continue to be picked up every seven days.

The switch is to boost the borough’s low levels of recycling, with neighbouring Lewisham seeing recycling go up from a meagre 17 per cent to 28 per cent when it moved to fortnightly collections in 2017.

Just 32.7 per cent of Greenwich’s waste is recycled, with officers warning that the figure is decreasing, in part because of thousands of new flats being built with communal facilities that make it harder to recycle. The council thinks it can get that up to 38 per cent – and eventually save £460,000 per year in the process.

Town hall chiefs will also crack down on those putting food and non-recyclable waste in recycling bins – meaning they will have to create a database of every wheelie bin in the borough, a report to the council’s main decision-making body, the cabinet, says. If residents want a contaminated bin emptied, they will have to sort the rubbish themselves or pay for the council to come back to collect it. The council thinks it can save £130,000 a year in disposal costs.

Greenwich’s combined garden and food waste service will remain free of charge

Councillors on the cabinet will approve the change next week, although the full policy will take up to two-and-a-half years to implement. It is the first big change to the council’s green/blue/black bin policy since it was introduced 12 years ago. (Read the full details – items 11.0 to 11.7.)

Who collects what and when?

Greenwich: Blue: Dry recycling, collected weekly Green: Garden waste and food waste, collected weekly, no charge Black: Non-recyclable waste, collected weekly (to become fortnightly)
Lewisham: Green: Dry recycling, collected weekly Silver: Food waste, collected weekly Black: Non-recyclable waste, collected fortnightly Brown: Garden waste collected weekly (optional, £80 charge)
Bexley: White: Plastic bottles, cans, food trays, glass, foil, collected fortnightly Blue: Paper, cardboard, collected fortnightly Green: Non-recyclable waste, collected fortnightly Food recycling box, collected weekly Brown: Garden waste collected fortnightly (optional, £38 charge)

A consultation found that only 20 per cent of the 4,000 residents who responded to the survey said that they would need weekly collections to remain. However, only 16 per cent thought the change of policy would help them recycle more.

Plans to charge for garden waste collections – which would have also seen every household given a small food waste bin, as seen in neighbouring Lewisham and Bexley – were rejected after 68 per cent of the residents who responded to the survey said they would not pay.

Residents in Lewisham now have to pay £80 per year – the highest charge in London – if they want garden waste collected, and in Bexley the fee is up to £38. But the days of collecting food and garden waste together in a single bin may still be numbered – Greenwich officers said they did not want to spend money on implementing a new policy while the government is planning to pay for councils to split garden and food waste collections from 2023.

Greenwich Council bins
The council will keep using large black-topped bins

Other changes will see clear plastic sacks for recycling withdrawn to save money and to stop the sacks interfering with recycling equipment; while planning applications for flats will be assessed to ensure they include recycling facilities.

Refuse crews will also no longer pick up items left alongside bins – everything a household disposes of will have to fit inside the bin. Flats above shops and other properties which would struggle to store waste for a fortnight will still get weekly black bin collections, while requests from large families and children using nappies will be “assessed on a case by case basis”.

While the council is braced for complaints, these systems are common in other boroughs and Greenwich’s changes are mild compared with some areas. Last year, Bexley introduced a scheme where different types of recycling are collected every fortnight.

Greenwich’s cabinet will vote on the changes at a meeting next Wednesday.

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