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EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about the changes to Highland bin collections

By Nicola Sinclair, Local Democracy Reporter

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Changes are lined up for bin collections.
Changes are lined up for bin collections.

New colours, new rules, and an extra bin – next spring will bring big changes to Highland household bin collections.

We’ve pulled together everything you need to know.

What goes where?

Currently most Highland households have two bins: a green bin for waste and a blue bin for recycling. Many people also pay £47.75 per year for a brown garden bin.

From next spring, Highland Council wants people to spread their recycling across two bins. They also want people to throw less waste to landfill.

As a result, the council is changing what waste goes in which bins. They are also providing an additional small grey bin. Here’s how it will work:

Green bin – for mixed containers

Your current green waste bin will be repurposed for recycling. This bin is for mixed containers – that’s plastic bottles, pots, tubs and trays, as well as cans, tins, foil and cartons.

Blue bin – for paper and card

Paper and card will now be recycled separately from containers. This makes it easier for the council to sort our recycling. The blue bin you currently use for all recycling should now only be used for paper and card. Any other recyclables go in the green bin.

New grey bin – for general waste

Every household will receive an additional bin for general waste. However, the new grey bin will be smaller than your old green bin, at 180 litres. Highland Council hopes that providing more capacity for recycling will encourage people to throw away less waste to landfill.

Garden waste permits are required.
Garden waste permits are required.

Brown bin – for garden waste

There’s no change to the brown bin service. It’s still available for an annual fee, for disposing of garden waste. The current price is £47.75 and the service runs from March 1 to August 31, 2023.

Food recycling bin – in certain areas only

Currently, only households in Inverness can recycle their food waste. From next spring, the food collection scheme will extend to more communities in the Highlands. If you live in one of those areas, your new grey bin will be smaller, at 140 litre capacity. If you don’t have access to food collection, the new grey bin will be 180 litres.

A new recycling service will be rolled out across the Highlands.
A new recycling service will be rolled out across the Highlands.

How often will the council collect your bins?

Currently, bins are collected fortnightly, with general waste picked up one week and recycling the following week. The collection day depends on your street – you can check that on the council website.

Highland Council has offered reassurances that they do not plan to reduce the frequency of bin collections. Refuse will still be collected fortnightly. Recycling collections will be ‘twin streamed’ so card and paper (blue) will be collected one fortnight and the following fortnight containers (green) will be picked up. For instance:

  • Week one – grey refuse bin
  • Week two – blue card and paper bin
  • Week three – grey refuse bin
  • Week four – green containers bin

What size are the bins?

As outlined above, households will keep their current 240 litre green and blue bins. They will just have different uses. The new grey refuse bin will be 140 litres if you live in an area with food collections, or 180 litres if you don’t.

What about people with second bins?

Highland Council has said it’s reviewing the policy for households who have an approved second bin, and will write to households with more information.

Plans by Highland Council to introduce a new bins have prompted criticism.
Plans by Highland Council to introduce a new bins have prompted criticism.

What if I live in a flat?

Many people on social media have expressed concern about how to store four bins. This is a particular issue for blocks of flats. The council says it will review each block of flats before making a decision on whether to add more bins.

How much does all this cost?

The council has received £6.5 million to fund the scheme, so the cost does not come from your council tax. The council made a successful bid to the Scottish Government recycling improvement fund, which was set up to modernise council bin collections.

Which areas will get food recycling containers?

Currently, the council collects food waste from homes in Inverness city, Culloden, Smithton, Balloch and Milton of Leys. The containers are collected weekly.

The new funding from the Scottish Government enables the council to expand this service to more areas. From next spring, homes in Nairn, Fort William and towns in Easter Ross will also benefit from this service.

The council provides caddies for collecting food waste in the home, and a larger one for storing outside. They also provide bin liners. There’s more information on the council website.

Why is the council not collecting glass?

A common question on social media was why does Highland Council not start doing doorstep glass collections. The council issued the following explanation: “Our glass recycling rate in Highland is currently high, using the existing recycling point system. When the Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) is introduced later in the year, it is expected that the majority of glass bottles will be returned via the DRS rather than through council recycling facilities.”

When does all this happen?

Highland Council says it will introduce the new bin scheme in phases from spring 2024, and more details will be released nearer the time.

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