Friday, 9 January 2009

Ruby's Rubbish Surprise: reporting live from York

Today I am delighted to feature a guest post by my dear friend Ruby. If you've been following
The Rubbish Diet for most of the last year, you may remember her own rubbish revelations when she had a go at slimming her own bin last summer.

After working hard to sort out her compostables in her brand spanking new brown wheelie bin, her recyclables in her old blue one and reducing her HUGE black landfill bin by an amazing 50%... she only went and boogered off to Yorkshire.

Well life's not the same without her in Bury St Edmunds. And as far as rubbish is concerned Ruby certainly got a shock when she landed in the beautiful city of York. Here she is to reveal all.

It's over to Ruby, reporting live from York...

"When I moved to York in August last year, I had a big rubbish surprise.

With a bag of trash for landfill in my hand, I went into the back yard, to find ... no bin!

I checked in the back access alley to the house - no bin there either! And not only were there none outside our house, there were also none outside anyone else's! Had the citizens of York all got down to zero waste already? Did no-one throw anything away?

Our bin-free back access alley in summer

"There are no bins," my mother explained. The council don't allow them in certain areas, because they look unsightly, all left out in the alleys.

"So what do I do with this?" I asked in horror, wielding my bag of stuff for landfill.

"Come this way, " she replied.

And I followed her to the dark recesses of the garden shed, where there sat a black bag.

"I keep it in here so cats can't get at it," she said. "They smell the food scraps, you see. They can make a terrible mess."

I shoved my rubbish inside the bag.

"And these are for recycling," she said, indicating a blue bag for paper waste, and a small green box for bottles and tins.

The blue bag is for paper – but not cardboard. The green box, for bottles and jars, and tin cans

Brilliant that there's a bottle collection from the doorstep - but not so good that cardboard can't be disposed of via the refuse collection - after all, it accounts for quite a lot of food packaging. And the box for recyclables is so small!

What a shock to the system. Coming from Bury St Edmunds where at the bottom of my garden sat my array of three wheelie bins - blue for recyclables, black for landfill, brown for garden waste, this was quite a change around. I am now, just about, getting used to it.

Here are a few pics from round and about the area I live:

Rubbish bags are out in a nearby street – is this cat ready to pounce?

Hmm, this street looks like there might have been a cat attack recently. The bags here were out way too early though. They are officially not supposed to be out before 7pm of the night before collection.

Look! Not even the doctor's has a bin! These are special bags for commercial waste.

I really don't know what to think though about the fact that we have no actual bin. Good or bad? I'm still not sure. What does anyone else think?"

Huge thanks to Ruby for pulling this post together so quickly. I only asked her yesterday after discussing her latest entry on her own blog.

It really does highlight the differences across the country in how our household rubbish is managed, something that we all so easily take for granted. And it's interesting to consider the aesthetics of street-scene as an element to waste management decisions. It is true that wheelie bins can "lower the tone" of an area as indeed can rubbish bags that are left out too early.

So what's it like in your neck of the woods? Are you a wheelie big fan of wheelie bins or are you happy with your plastic sacks? And how does rubbish collection impact on your neighbourhood? I'd love to know.

To see what Ruby's up to in York and indeed the photo that inspired today's post, visit her latest blog



John Costigane said...

Hi Mrs A,

Good to hear from your buddy Ruby again. York's aesthetics have a point but surely not at the expense of loose waste. Cardboard should also be collected as a minimum.

Wheelie bins are the standard in Renfrewshire, along with recycling boxes, 2 of each. Some people can fill their bin to overflowing every week!

esther said...

personnaly I prefer a bin...but my bin, which gets picked up averuy week (the one for landfill) only gets full every two months or so (it is a big bin, though) and when I asked the coucil if I could et a smaller one and pay less (logic in my mind!!)they told me that they don't do that overhere, everyone pays the same...;mmmm!

Not seeing bins at all, I have to say, is a good sight...but seeing wastebags scratched open, doesn't look very clean to me....

lunarossa said...

Hi to you, Mrs Average and to dear Ruby. I was gutted to hear that in some parts of York bins are not allowed. I live just a couple of miles outside and I got my green bin and my blue bin for recycling (actually two blue bins, as I requested an extra one being one not enough in my household), I had to add that we are officially already in the East Rising of Yorkhire district and that might be the difference. I think that black pastic bags outside the houses are horribles and inside the houses or garages they stink more than the green bins. Ciao. Antonella

mrs green said...

We don't even have wheelie bins where I live! We have an old fashioned metal one. We have green wheelie bins for garden waste and a green container for newpapers, tins and glass. C'est tout!

Great to catch up with Ruby and you're right; there is such a difference across the land....

Mrs g x

Anonymous said...

Here in Hereford, we get black bags for general rubbish collected every week, then a clear plastic bag for plastics & tins(but not yoghurt pots,cling film or take-away/meat containers) fortnightly and a purple one for paper & card also fortnightly.
It was very messy, so we went & bought extra bins so the cats couldn't get at the bags.

Kim. Hereford

just Gai said...

In Bristol we have black wheelie bin for landfill rubbish. They come in three sizes. We asked for a small one. Most people have the medium ones but there are a few families down our street who have the large ones - they're enormous! Wheelie bins are collected fortnightly.

We also have a brown bin for kitchen waste (with a matching kitchen caddy) and a black box for bottles, tins, foil etc. These are collected weekly. Cardboard can be tied up and left beside the black bin.

I prefer bins to sacks but I wish they looked more attractive. The large ones are particularly unsightly sat outside terraced houses.

Where my dad lived in Edinburgh he didn't have his own bin. He lived in a row of tenement flats with big black communal bins parked at regular intervals along the roadside. I thought they looked particularly ugly but perhaps no more so than half a dozen individual bins outside each stair door.

I think it was you Mrs A who blogged about the incredible underground bins in Switzerland. I loved them.

Layla said...

This is a great idea!

to collect photos & experiences from all sides of the world! (ideally)
There are so many different practices, and it's good to see & read how it goes in practice!!
Here in Slovenia there are different practices in different places too.. We have a metal bin (some neighbours have newer bigger ones) and there are big bins for recyclables (paper, plastics, metal tins, glass) We're in a rural area so mostly everybody does own composting.. (or such)
In a bigger city where Granny lives, they have brown (small!) bins for compost waste, bins for recyclables, and (sadly) big big containers for 'other waste'..

Where's the blog about incredible underground bins in Switzerland??!! :)))))

Sam said...

Where we live (near Cardiff), we only have black bags for landfill. Possibly it's because many of the houses are built with steep steps and slopes to the front and back door. In our last house, we wouldn't have been able to get a wheelie bin up and down the steps.
For recycling the council did offer some small green boxes, with no lid, but they've all gone now. I have seen some reusable bags being put out, but otherwise, all recycling is in seperate plastic bags.
It's very unsightly, the black bags are constantly littering contents across the pavements (maggots last summer!), the bags full of plastic recycling blow away in mild wind, but the seagulls and cats love it!

teepee said...

I live in Loughborough (Leicestershire) and we have: green bags for plastic bottles, plastic wrapping, plastic cartons, foil and tin cans; red bags for paper and cardboard (including Tetrapaks now). These are collected every 2 weeks. We have a black wheelie bin for anything that can't be recycled and this is collected on alternate weeks to the recycling stuff. We also have an optional brown bin, for garden waste and compostable kitchen waste, but these you have to pay for and not everyone has one.

Denise said...

Here in Chelmsford (Essex), we have a black bin for landfill waste (weekly), a brown bin for garden waste (alternate weeks), sacks each for paper and cardboard, a green box for tins, glass, textiles and a collection bag for plastic (bottles only) all collected fortnightly. The council will not empty bins that are overflowing, and will not pick up black bags. We don't seem to get any real problems - except the common experience in windy weather of the paper or cardboard sacks blowing away. I've had to make many a trip to the council offices to collect a new bag!

However, I'm concerned about the growing number of reports that there is a glut of recyclates and many collections may not be actually being recycled, so my current aim is to actually generate less waste in every category. We are doing well - we hardly have any waste paper since going junk mail free and virtually no plastic since going back to having milk delivered in glass bottles to the doorstep.

david mcmahon said...

Bin there, done that!!

My first visit here and I have to say I enjoyed the premise of your BIN 101 blog. I'll think of something for you .....

Strawberry Jam Anne said...

We have dustbins for household waste (or black bags - householders choice), green wheelie bins for garden waste - collected fortnightly, along with fortnightly collection of cans etc. Daughter lives in Stratford on Avon and they have fairly strict regulations about waste collections too. A x


Hi Everyone, firstly can I say huge thanks for sharing an insight, not into just the UK, but across the world. It really does highlight the difference and I often wonder whether there is a link between the types of facilities offered and the quality of recycling.

For anyone who is interested take a look at this article by Mal Williams of Clych Wales which was in the Guardian last week

It's great to see you all, including a few news faces so bear with me while I reply to everyone :-D


ooops...the URL for Mal William's article above is

Hi John - so true about cardboard. I've heard that there are a more paper recycling plants opening up in the UK. I wonder if those will process cardboard too. And as you can tell, I like my bins too. Recently because of a bin shortage the new houses opposite me went without for about 6 weeks. It really made the area look very unsightly.

Hi Esther - I've had the same issue with trying to get a smaller bin too. Our local council only gives them to smaller households. Personally, I feel that if you don't create much waste you don't need a huge bin. It would take a whole year to fill ours up and because space is tight it takes up for too much space than is necessary. I think the presence of smaller bins would be a positive flag carrier for zero waste households. :-D

Hi Lunarossa - lovely to see you over here and thanks for leaving a comment. No wonder people are confused, when it comes down to how areas such as York are split up. It's certainly becoming apparent that collections are not just based on the local authority but the type of residential area you live in. I prefer bins to bags any day. Perhaps Ruby needs to move so that she can get her bins back LOL :-D

Hi Mrs G - I love your old fashioned metal bin. She's a stunner LOL. I guess it's your choice to use a bin, whereas other residents down your road would just put out plastic bin bags. Is that generally the case? Congratulations on the huuuuge press coverage this weekend by the way.

Folks do go and have a look at for details and give the Greens a huge pat on the back :-D x

Hi Kim - a huge welcome to you too and thanks so much for the info. Blimey those are a lot of plastic bags you have to deal with, just for recycling alone. And you're right, when you're managing such a system, the best thing you can do is get extra bins. Cats can make so much mess if they're left to their own devices. Does your council give you the option of collection kitchen scraps and garden waste too? Or is that bunged in with general rubbish?

Hi Just Gai - LOL now it doesn't surprise me you only need a small one, especially after your one Zero Waste Challenge last year. But I know what you mean about the huge bins, they are immense. It seems Bristol have got it sorted, which is great because if my memory serves me correct, the city's landfill waste is transported by train to another county? South Midlands comes to mind.

Yes it was me who blogged about the Swiss bins.


Hi Layla - welcome to blog and thanks so much for your info about Slovenia. It's always interesting to see how other countries tackle waste issues. It sounds like Slovenia is doing well with the composting and indeed providing facilities for recycling. I'd love to know your thoughts on how well you feel your government is tackling residual waste. Is is a big an issue as it is over here in the UK?

I've just listed the URL for the Swiss bin under the reply to Just Gai. If you need to know more about my Swiss recycling experience, there's lots more on the blog. Searching for Switzerland in the little search box will pull up loads of info during my holiday there last summer. :-D

Hi Sam - welcome again to the blog and Bore Da to Cardiff (I'm originally from Treharris up in the Valleys and have a particular fondness for catching up with folk from my home country). How horrible regarding the maggots and the bin bags, but I know what you mean about the houses with the high steps. Again, I suppose there are practical issues to take account of. I heard that community bins are being trialled (in Brighton and Hove, I think). Is that something that would suit your neck of the woods or would that be too much hassle?

Hi Teepee - and welcome to the site too. Good to see you hear and thanks for sharing. I'm beginning to feel my old communities are following me around LOL. I lived near Loughborough for some time and spent a couple of years at Loughborough University too. How great that Tetrapaks are being collected from your doorstep. Around here we have to take them to a recycling point, which means that I now avoid buying stuff in Tetrapaks as much as possible because I can't do with the clutter. It's interesting about charging for garden waste. It seems a fair system but I wonder how many people tuck their garden waste in their other bins so they don't have to pay. Does the council have any control over that? Anyway, a huge hello to Loughborough and Sutton Bonington, just up the road :-D

Hi Denise - welcome back and great to see you here again. I wonder what everyone feels about councils who won't collect overflowing bins. It's an interesting one isn't it, because it just means it will also be overflowing during the next collection too. Harsh lessons indeed. With boxes, do you get one of those trucks where recyclates are sorted as they go along? It's a different form of recycling to those of us who get the pleasure of throwing it all in a wheelie bin, which the bin lorry comes and collects. It sounds as though you're doing really well with the reducing your waste, especially where paper is concerned. As we know LESS is most definitely more when it comes to managing rubbish. LOL :-D

Hi David - Lovely to see you over here and thanks for the comment. LOL, Bin there done that...I've even bartered the t-shirt :-D Glad you like the Bin 101. Please do add something. It would be great to start a new vote :-D

Hi Anne - It looks like the system in your area is pretty straightforward. Interesting to see the mixed use of wheelie bins for garden waste and bags\dustbins for other waste though. Looks like Stratford might have similar issues to York regarding aesthetics.

Thanks again everyone. I hope that Ruby has now decided whether she's a bag lady or a bin girl. Can you just imagine the kinds of conversations that go on in council offices, when they have to consider aspects such as aesthetics, access, health & safety, economics, facilities, demand for recycling as well as staffing and logistics of bin rounds. Blimmin' 'eck with all that to think about it makes me glad I just talk rubbish on my blog. :-D x

Ruby said...

Thanks to everyone for your feedback - you have a lovely crowd of readers on here Almost Mrs A! I am definitely a bin girl rather than a bag lady. It was nice to know that I'm not the only one dealing with a plastic bag only situation though. And thanks to AMA for inviting me to talk rubbish :-)


LOL - No probs Ruby. You know I could let you talk rubbish for a lot longer. Good luck with your bags. And you're right. On a more pleasant note, I am so lucky to have what you describe as a lovely crowd of readers. LOL - they have indeed kept me smiling as I've battled with my bins :-D x

Kim said...

here in Hereford, the council will collect garden waste if you go to the council offices & buy a Greenbag for £1. The bin men will not collect garden waste in any other green bags. This is a con as they collect it at the same time as the other rubbish. Each bag is clearly marked with the Legend " No rock, soil, housebricks or branches more than 2.5cm dia" and also this gem of info "the contents of this sack will be sent to landfill" !!!
Our council does not provide any way of disposing of kitchen waste so far as I know. Have not had to find out as we never get any kitchen waste, as its either eaten by the dog, composted or worm farmed.

Kim Hereford


Hi Kim - blimey. How bizarre, so that looks like you pay to keep the garden waste out of the rubbish bins, but it gets sent to landfill all the same. Intriguing. Great news about your kitchen waste though. I manage most of mine with the Bokashi, Wormery or Compost. Hopefully the chickens will help on that too. :-D

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