Binning streak

Written by: Geraldine Faulkner | Published:
Broxap's standard litter bin

From Keep Britain Tidy’s updated campaigns to tackle littering – a £1 billion problem in England alone – to fellow environmental charity Hubbub’s gamification and voting bins, the industry is striving to keep pace with behavioural and technological change, reports Geraldine Faulkner

For a country that eulogises its “green and pleasant land”, we are very good at trashing it. With headlines such as “People are furious about the amount of litter on Cardiff’s streets and in its parks” (walesonline, 29 July) and “Protest over ‘obscene amount of litter’ to take place on Bournemouth beach” (Bournemouth Daily Echo, 29 July) littering the internet, it is no surprise that the UK bin and waste container industry is becoming more creative in finding solutions to deal with rubbish on our streets and in our countryside.

An organisation that knows a thing or two about litter is the environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy (

Created in 1954, the organisation has a vision that by 2030 society will have all but eliminated littering and litter. KBT hopes that through its programmes and campaigns, “we’ll have changed attitudes and behaviours so that littering is seen as socially unacceptable throughout society”. Until that litter-free nirvana is achieved, Rachel Scarisbrick, litter and place services manager with Keep Britain Tidy, takes a pragmatic approach to the tools of the organisation’s campaigns, namely, bins and waste containers, and enthuses about the choice that is available.

“Although the appearance of a standard litter bin has remained similar, there is a wide variety of designs to choose from, so you could see a slightly different style almost every time you visit a new park, high street or shopping parade,” says Scarisbrick. “Bins offering either mixed or single-stream recycling are more common than they were 15-20 years ago, but vary from authority to authority.”

She points to how trends in bins have changed, with many outdoor public bins now being ‘contained’, i.e. have a top, and a small to average-sized aperture.

“This is designed to deter pests and, if it’s a recycling bin, to make contamination of the bin difficult. There has been a trend to using durable plastic rather than metal, and litter bins now often come with a cigarette stub plate and cigarette butt disposal segment,” continues the litter and place services manager. She pauses before observing: “Bin capacity seems to have increased in a number of busy urban environments to cope with increased demand; this is generally in the form of larger bins rather than additional bins.”

Preferred bin options

As the environmental charity carries out a great deal of its work with local authorities, which bin designs are the most popular?

“Different bin designs work better in different environments. Standard litter bin designs include the Brunel, Jubilee and Invicta litter bin designs from Glasdon, or the Derby design from Broxap. Where recycling is offered, the Olympic dual bins supplied by Amberol, or Broxap’s Derby Double, are common,” states Scarisbrick. “Another bin type often seen in larger town and city centres is the BigBelly solar compaction bin. Some also use large, bottle-bank-style bins with different shaped apertures for different recycling streams, although these are not widespread.

“The most common would probably be a mix of single black plastic litter bin with an average-sized aperture on two to four sides, a dual litter/mixed recycled bin with one or two apertures per waste stream, and a BigBelly bin with extra storage capacity in high-profile urban centres.”

More and more manufacturers are creating bespoke solutions.

Laura Plant, regional sales executive – litter bins division – at bin specialist Broxap ( says: “A lot of litter bins are specifically tailored to customers’ requirements and specifications.”

When it comes to designing bins for anti-litter campaigns, environmental charity Hubbub works with social enterprises based at Makerversity in Somerset House in London.

“Our bins are developed using observational research in the street and then designed using behaviour change techniques such as nudge and gamification [an online marketing technique to encourage engagement with a product or service],” explains Trewin Restorick, CEO/founder of Hubbub ( “This led to the creation of the Ballot Bin (, 200 of which have been sold all round the world in the first two months. Next on the streets will be a gamified bin for the collection of coffee cups for recycling and a voting bin for use at major events, festivals, etc.”

With austerity cuts biting into local authority budgets, are their choices of bins being dictated by constrained finances?

Scarisbrick again: “Some local authorities are considering removing bins to reduce costs. There is also a school of thought that removing bins can reduce the volume of litter dropped because people take more responsibility for it if a bin is not available.”

Using smart technology

Although still not widely used, smart technology is becoming more popular.

“Bin sensors can provide real-time information to a monitoring hub based on the level of bin fill, and provides a warning when it reaches a certain level. This allows the land manager to only visit a bin when it needs to be emptied. Routing software can then decide the most efficient route to reach all such bins on a round,” observes KBT’s litter and place services manager.

Broxap’s Laura Plant also sees the bin and waste container world moving towards technology.

“The future of litter bins and waste containers will adapt. We already have a lot of interest around the fill level monitoring system. The sensors which are placed within litter bins use technology to provide a more cost-effective way to manage and ensure bins are emptied. This works by using a bin management system that provides automatic monitoring of bins and generates warnings of when bins are full, permitting for intelligent route planning for collections, and therefore reducing costs and time, making for a more efficient waste management solution.”

Work in progress

KBT estimates that street cleansing (a polite way of saying ‘picking up litter’) costs taxpayers almost £1 billion a year in England, so clearly there is still a great deal of work to be done to educate the 62% of people who are estimated to drop the 30 million tonnes of litter that is collected from the country’s streets each year.

In a report published in 2013, KBT says: “There are clear opportunities for increasing the provision of recycling and litter bins to enable people to easily and responsibly dispose of products.

“We call for adequate recycling and litter bin provision and for them to be emptied and cleaned regularly. This should include the use of research and new technology to identify where to place bins and how we can reduce costs servicing them.”

With the need to provide ever more robust, fire-proof bins with sensors that provide alerts when they need emptying and coming up with new solutions to deter people from dropping litter, there is no danger of the bins and waste container industry not having enough to keep it busy for many years to come.

Case study: Cannock Chase opts for Taylor node°

Cannock Chase Council was looking for ways to improve recycling rates at the Moss Road residential estate in Cannock. At the time, recycling rates were reported to be almost non-existent with the multi-occupancy dwellings making collection a logistical nightmare.

The council had worked previously with Taylor ( to improve recycling and waste collection in the town centre and were aware of Taylor’s urban solutions range. Two Taylor node 360° mini recycling centres were installed after a consultation period with Moss Road residents.

Within a matter of weeks recycling rates were said to have increased dramatically and the units were receiving positive feedback from residents.

The node° has a distinctive design which is reported to make waste separation and collection easy, while only taking up a small footprint on the street. It is available in four modular configurations, from the single unit node 90° to the full node 360°.

According to Taylor, as soon as the node° units were installed recycling rates began to increase and, despite a few contamination issues in the first couple of weeks, there have been no problems with misuse or vandalism.

Within four months of installation, there was an average fortnightly collection of 3,200 litres of recyclate per unit.

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