Why Hasn’t My Bin Been Collected?


Bin collections are one of the most integral services for district and borough councils, and it can be incredibly frustrating if you discover that all your waste is still sat in your wheelie bin at the end of your collection day.

A missed bin collection can happen for various reasons, but can usually be rectified easily using your council’s website or by calling them. Before you get in contact, check there’s no sticker on your bin, and there have been no service interruptions.

green bin lorry emptying brown bins

Common Reasons For Missed Collections

From time to time, bin collections go wrong. Some reasons are more common than others, but what is important is getting to the bottom of why you still have a bin full of rubbish and how to rectify it. What’s more, it helps to minimise the chance that it will happen again.

Service Interruptions

A service interruption occurs when the dust carts stop travelling around your town or city collecting waste. This can happen for all sorts of reasons, ranging from adverse weather to vehicle breakdowns.

On one occasion a few years ago, I got home to find that my garden waste was about to be collected when the lorry had reversed over one of the bin men’s feet. A lorry that weighs several tons is always going to win that battle, and it took quite some time for an ambulance crew to sort him out and take him to hospital, and longer still for a replacement crew to resume operations for the day.

While that’s clearly not the sort of thing that will happen regularly, it does highlight the unexpected nature of how things can go wrong. It’s not just too much snow that throws a spanner in the works!

The Wrong Day

Before you start moaning down the phone at the waste collection call centre operative, check you’ve got the right day. Most councils provide a collection day calendar annually, so check it’s the date you think it is on your mobile phone, and then check that’s also the date the bin men are due to visit.

Another great tip is to look down the road (unless you live in the middle of nowhere). If no one else has their bin out, it could well be the wrong day!

Finally, if you don’t have your printed collections calendar to hand, take a look at the local council’s website. There you’ll usually find a way to check the dates online, and often they also list any service updates that might be affecting collections.

The Wrong Bin

Things used to be so easy, with easy address having a single bin that was collected weekly. These days it’s far more complicated to remember off the top of your head – another reason why the bin collections calendars are so important.

Typically, you’ll have at least two bins, one for general waste and one for recycling, but in most areas there are now more.

The most common arrangement is that now general waste is collected no more often than once a fortnight, with recycling bins being emptied in the other weeks, but every area has its own nuances. It’s very common that paper bins and glass and plastics are collected once a month.

If you get this wrong, you’ll probably find the collections crew have noted your error, and will know that they don’t have to come back even if you claim they’re in the wrong.

The Wrong Rubbish In The Bin

While general waste bins will usually be emptied regardless of their contents, recycling is less straightforward. If you’ve absent mindedly chucked paper in the card bin or vice versa, you may find it’s spotted as the truck comes around.

Most councils provide stickers to indicate that the bin contents is ‘contaminated’. It’s quite an aggressive way of saying there’s stuff in there that shouldn’t be, but the end result is the same – the bin wasn’t emptied.

In this case too, that means they’ll have documented that they tried to collect your bin and something was wrong, so likely won’t be back for that day’s waste until the next scheduled collection day.

Overflowing Rubbish

The test for most council areas is that the lid of your bin must be fully closed to be collected. That’s a fairly simple measure, yet you’ll often see households trying their luck. Admittedly, most bin crews will turn a blind eye and still go ahead and collect as normal.

The official line for most areas is that bins will not be collected if they’re overfilled (not closed or excessively heavy), while some will ask their team to remove a bag or two where possible, empty the bin and leave the excess waste in the bin for next time. It might seem a little ridiculous to leave part of the waste, but if everyone does that, it means the lorry has to return to base more often to empty, meaning the round takes a lot longer to complete.

The Bin Was Missing/Hidden

Here’s one to strike further rage into the soul of an already frustrated resident – being told your bin wasn’t present for collection. Again, there are a range of reasons this happens, starting with a careless employee simply walking by and missing yours.

If you are like most people, we live in homes that end up with cars parked everywhere, and delivery drivers stopping all over the place all day, so it’s also possible that a car or van parked right in front of your bin at the moment the truck came by.

For this reason, you’ll sometimes find you can report this as a problem, and they’ll come and collect it later, or within a day or two.

Why Councils Are Reluctant To Return To Empty Bins

If you’ve ever needed to report a missed collection, you might have found that the people you’re speaking to are appearing to avoid returning at all costs and trying to blame you for not putting your bin out.

Of course, if you know in your heart you put the bin out late or didn’t put it out at all, then that’s your fault and you shouldn’t expect the council to rectify that.

On the other hand though, if you know you aren’t to blame, it’s a service you pay for in your council tax, so rightfully expect the missed collection to be rectified.

Councils are on tight budgets, and money seems to get tighter every year. Returning to collect bins is expensive, that’s why the towns and cities across the country have meticulously planned routes to cover the collections as quickly and efficiently as possible.

That’s the reason why it feels like an uphill battle to get a replacement bin emptying booking in, every additional cost for the council is a saving they have to cut somewhere else, or an additional cost to add to the council tax bill totals for residents.

Bin Collection Reliability

We’ll finish on a point that’s got to be made to be fair to the councils around the country. Missed collections are rare – typically less than a quarter of one percent. That means something in the region of 399 in every 400 collections are made accurately on average.

When things go wrong though, it does feel like you’ve been picked on personally, especially if your bin is rammed full and you’ve got a kitchen bin that needs emptying before it overflows.

Just remember though, on the other end of the phone it’s just someone doing their job, and they’ve not got it in for you personally. More likely, they have got a boss that’s pressuring them to keep replacement collections to a minimum!

Liam Gifford

I'm Liam. I spent twenty four years on the bins in South Yorkshire and now spend my time on recycling projects. I created this site to use my knowledge of how the rounds work, and what people need to know about getting their wheelie bins emptied every week.

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