Recycling collections for flats - collections from each floor

Recycling collection containers are installed on each floor of a block of flats.  Material from these containers is then taken to a central bulking area on the ground floor of the building.

Please be aware of new fire safety guidance produced by the Local Government Association (LGA - previously the Local Government Group): Fire Safety in Purpose built flats. The guidance is aimed at housing providers and fire safety enforcing authorities, but is also useful for local authorities planning and operating waste and recycling collection schemes for flats.

The guidance is intended to provide more comprehensive and applicable information on fire safety for blocks of flats than the previous guidance on ‘Fire Safety Risk assessment: Sleeping Accommodation’ published by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in 2006.

While recognising the importantance of recycling schemes for residents within blocks of flats it provides definitve guidance regarding the placement of recyclable materials in corridors. Section 45 states that:

"Recycling initiatives encourage residents to avoid waste and use resources sustainably. However, collection schemes often involve materials being set out in corridors, lobbies and stairways within the common parts, giving rise to a potentially serious fire hazard... While only transitory, such material is nevertheless wholly inappropriate. It cannot be considered acceptable even where ‘managed use’ policies apply. Landlords should put in place alternative arrangements for recycling that do not rely on collection from within the common parts."

‘Common parts’ refers to all internal communal areas including chute rooms, stairwells and corridors.

Local authorities are strongly recommended to have regard to this guidance. Key stakeholders that should be engaged with regarding fire risk are:

  • The Regulatory Reform Order identifies that a responsible person (usually the person in control of the premises such as the owner or managing organisation) has a duty to take fire precautions and ensure that an up to date fire risk assessment is in place for the buildings they are responsible for. The local authority, should engage with this person regarding the waste and recycling service to ensure that the schemes can be operated safely and do not contribute to fire risk.
  • The local fire authority who can advise on the risks posed by different types of collection schemes.
  • The council’s health and safety officers (who may sit within the Environmental Health Department).

About collections from each floor

Recycling collection containers are installed on each floor of a block of flats.  Material from these containers is then taken to a central bulking area on the ground floor of the building by collection operatives or caretakers.

Although not widely used by local authorities there are currently two schemes like this known to be operating in the London Boroughs of Islington and in Hammersmith and Fulham.  Both are trials of dry recycling collections that the local authorities have launched in partnership with local New Deal for Communities.  In theory, these schemes could also be used for food waste collections although odours and leakage of liquids would need to be closely monitored and controlled.

In both Islington and Hammersmith and Fulham, residents are provided with single use bags to store their recycling within the home and transport it to the recycling containers. 

Caretakers use a trolley to transport recyclable materials to the ground floor where they load recycling into large recycling banks ready for collection by a vehicle. See photos 1 and 2 for examples of containers used.

Photo 1 - Plastic containers for recyclables in a block of flats near the waste chute
Photo 2 - A collection container for recyclables in a communal area of a block of flats.

Equipment that may be needed

  • personal protective equipment for collection crews and/or caretakers;
  • containers for residents to store and transport materials;
  • recycling containers for each floor of the building;
  • recycling banks to bulk materials at the ground level;
  • trolley to move materials;
  • communication materials for residents (including signage to go on or near the container at each level);
  • information packs for the crew, caretakers and call centre staff;
  • communication materials for residents including notes, stickers or letters to communicate if containers are contaminated or set out on the wrong day; and
  • collection vehicle.

Read more on equipment used for flats collection schemes.

Typical performance of schemes using collection containers on each floor

There is little data and information available on their performance, as they are not yet widely used in the UK. As such, WRAP cannot provide a typical tonnage performance of this scheme.

This page will be updated when more schemes come in line and more data is available. If you have such a scheme in place with data to share, please email WRAP.

Download a table comparing the performance of different recycling systems for flats.

What’s good about collections from each floor?

  • allows residents to easily dispose of their recycling as often as they need to;
  • containers remain in one location which can reduce collection times compared to door to door collections and also reduces the number of containers set out in corridors;
  • easy for residents to understand and use and the profile of recycling remains highly visible;
  • containers can be located in frequently passed areas or next to refuse chutes to make recycling as easy as refuse disposal;
  • there are opportunities for on-site staff to be involved in recycling (e.g. by removing containers set out on the wrong day or championing systems); and
  • capital costs can be relatively low (depending on the type of container purchased).

What problems could there be?

  • the correct location is needed for the containers to reduce risk, particularly fire risk (e.g. the managing agent may require containers to be away from stairs or behind a fire door);
  • this type of scheme is relatively untested and there is no information available on how food waste collection schemes may perform;
  • containers need to be installed permanently into the corridors or other internal communal space which:
  1. Can have implications on consultation times before the scheme is implemented
  2. Can increase fire risk (as containers may be arson targets)
  3. May contravene management policies.
  • manual handing of recyclables is needed during collection, particularly if there are no lifts or they are regularly out of order;
  • collection operatives may have difficulty accessing buildings, particularly private blocks which don’t always have trade entry or fire access arrangements;
  • ongoing co-operation from the manager of the block is needed; and
  • the impact of missed collections is high as containers may start to overflow. Procedures need to be put in place to cover sickness / absence of collection staff.

How could different building types affect collections?

  • finding appropriate space for recycling containers can be difficult for flats in converted houses and mansion blocks where corridor space is often limited;
  • mansion blocks and converted households are likely to have enclosed corridors - a factor that contributes to fire risk of containers being stored in corridors;
  • in high rise blocks the manual handling of material down stairwells may be significant;
  • privately managed blocks don’t always have trade entry or fire access arrangements which may make them more difficult for collection crews to access than other blocks;
  • in blocks with a high proportion of holiday lets turnover of ‘residents’ can be high and the recycling containers may not be properly used. This may contribute to the risk of the scheme if containers are set out in corridors at incorrect times; and
  • in sheltered accommodation blocks particular care should be taken that containers will not inhibit wheelchair access.

Top tips

In the trial launched by North Fulham New Deal for Communities and Hammersmith and Fulham Council:

  • Clear signage is used above the recycling container and stickers on the lid of the container are used to inform residents about what they can recycle [see photo for example].
Signage on the container lid of a collection container in the communal area of a block of flats
  • Containers are bolted to the floor to prevent them from being moved and reduce risks associated with antisocial behaviour.
  • Caretakers tested two types of trolley to find the best trolley to transport materials to the ground floor. One was designed bespoke, based on a consultation session held with caretakers before the scheme was introduced.
  • Caretakers collect material from the containers three times per week but check containers throughout the week while they are cleaning the block, and empty the containers if needed. 
  • Currently caretakers are being paid overtime to undertake the collections however the potential for recycling collections to be incorporated in their daily duties is being investigated. Feedback from caretakers about the scheme has been overwhelmingly positive and they are keen for the scheme to continue.

Want to know more?

Download a case study about recycling collections on each floor in Islington that was launched by EC1 New Deal for Communities and Islington Council.

View a video about the EC1 New Deal for Communities and Islington Council recycling scheme.