Branch Guest Speaker – Stuart Collins, Cabinet Member for Clean and Green Croydon

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Thornton Heath Branch was extremely fortunate to have Councillor Stuart Collins in attendance to discuss the newly rolled out changes to Croydon’s waste collection system.

In Croydon we currently recycle 38% of our household waste but 70% is recyclable. The rubbish we throw away is polluting our planet and we all need to do our bit to protect the environment. By changing the bins, bags and boxes you use for your rubbish we can take pride in Croydon and help the planet. Croydon has over 130,000 properties and this rollout is one of the biggest rollouts of bin systems undertaken in Europe. So far, over 200,000 bins have been delivered under a new system that was successfully trialled throughout Germany and Glasgow.
It is proposed that changing the waste collection system will:

  • Boost Croydon’s recycling rate from 38% to over 50% – making us one of the highest recycling boroughs in London.
  • Make our streets even cleaner –  by preventing recycling and general waste from blowing down the road on windy days.
  • Save money – the new service will save £5 million per year. We’ll use that money to protect vital frontline services that residents rely on.

Residents across the borough will get new bins and new collection dates under council plans to hit a 50% recycling target. The changes are designed to raise the amount of household waste recycled in the borough to over 50%, reduce the amount of non-recyclable rubbish by 160,000 tonnes over 10 years, reduce litter by storing recycling in wheelie bins that prevent spillages, and save £5m per year on operational costs.

The changes, introduced from September, include:

  • New 240-litre wheelie bins for mixed paper and card
  • A new 180-litre wheelie bin for general rubbish
  • Existing bins will instead be used for recycling glass, plastic packaging, cans and cartons
  • Council-branded bags so residents with limited outdoor space – such as flats above shops – can recycle more easily
  • The ability to recycle household batteries as part of the weekly collection – currently batteries have to be taken to household recycling centres
  • New collection days for over 75% of households to improve efficiency and reduce collection vehicle movements.
  • Collections will be as frequent as previous system.


Veolia signed a major new recycling and waste services contract spanning four South London boroughs. The new eight-year contract is worth over £209 million, with two possible eight-year extensions. Veolia is responsible for delivering services to Croydon, Sutton, Merton and Kingston. Veolia will manage recycling and waste collections, street cleansing, commercial waste, recyclate material sales, winter maintenance and vehicle management for one million residents over the four London boroughs.
By harmonising services across the four London boroughs Veolia will be able to deliver significant cost savings, better quality and more reliable services that will boost sustainability and preserve resources.

Challenges and Opportunities

Stuart acknowledges that the system simply does not suit everyone, and different households have different needs. To date, of 130,000 households, there has been direct contact with 800 households, with personalised amendments taking place. Where there are significant issues such as is not enough space to move bins in and out of the house, Veolia have agreed to provide additional services such as going into the front garden and putting them back. Over all, any complications and Veolia will have to let the Council know.
Veolia did a paper survey based on provision residents have at the moment. i.e. if one can get landfill bin out of their garden – used that data to inform new model.
From October, Veolia employing 8 new staff working with people on specific issues with bin – and educational dialogue.
Council are also working with Veolia to correct and adapt any oversights. i.e. in multi-story buildings.
Some complaints – harder to move bins than the small boxes. If people cannot move wheelie bins Veolia will offer services to move bins.


There is also the challenge of educating people about effective recycling, and incentivising people to do it. Whilst there are certainly teething issues, over all, the initial impression so far is that there is much more recycling taking place already and a lot less landfill. Whilst one third of small boxes were contaminated, the big bins are almost 100% effective. There are less spillages with landfill bins.
Stuart believes that most boroughs will be adopting this system and Croydon is leading the way for uniform recycling across the UK.
The next step is to focus on coffee cups, supermarket plastics, plastic packaging and tins. It is Croydon Councils ambition to lead the country and Labour councillors are prepared to be bold.

Branch members’ questions were also addressed

1. Why can’t we have everything in one recycling bin?
Reason South London Waste Partnership is not going for that is because we don’t have a facility that sorts through it. There’s also approximately an 80% contamination rate. Of all the bidders for the contract, not one said they can offer a mixed recycling system. They need resale value.
2. Are there any plans to change food caddies?
We do ask people to put food waste in biodegradable bag on the inside and at the moment no plan to change.

3. Bags to put in food waste so expensive, increased by a lot.
Stuart said he will raise the issue of profit margins with Veolia.

4. Suggestion: Community scheme paying for peoples landscaping to accommodate bins.
Impossible in austerity times, however, Croydon Council will review properties that me need to undertake significant alterations.

5. If we are making savings, can profits be reallocated for mess i.e. gum on pavements and litter?
Croydon Council are looking at funding a team to keep streets clean. However, nearly all the savings made covers parts of other issues hit by austerity. The Central Croydon bid in the future will help Croydon North when Westfield comes in.

6. When will you review the scheme and, if so, how?
The review will be ongoing for next 5 or 6 months and a cabinet report will be produced. Review will incorporate qualitative and quantitative data.

7. Is there a plan to downsize waste bins for those that want to?
If there is a demand, yes.

8. Why isn’t there a reward system for good recycling rates?
That’s the next step – we want to work with supermarkets as done in Germany. In the future we could try to get Veolia and supermarkets working together. Could set the precedent for a national model.