Wheelie Bin Etiquette

bin etiquette

You might think that using a bin is easy. But there are restrictions, both legal and just common courtesy, to throwing your rubbish away. Do you have good bin etiquette? Here's all you need to know about disposing of your rubbish without breaking the law or annoying your neighbours…

Legal Concerns

Strangely enough, there are laws surrounding rubbish. Some of these are common sense, others maybe not so much. The laws in the UK that are most likely to affect you are the following:

  • Littering: Littering, or not placing rubbish into a bin, is illegal, as most children know. So be sure to put that empty crisp packet in your pocket until you find a bin.
  • Fly-Tipping: Fly-tipping is pretty much littering on a big scale. Dumping a big bag of rubbish by the side of the road is illegal. You can only leave rubbish by the road if you know there is kerb-side collection AND if you know that today is a pick-up day.
  • Wrong Day Bins: Finally, in some areas, you might also be punished if you put your bin out on the wrong day. This depends on your local council, but in some places putting your bin at the kerb when it's not pick-up day counts as fly-tipping, so beware!

With the environment being such a big concern to most people these days, the government included, there are strict laws about waste disposal. These concern businesses more than individuals, however in the UK it is illegal to:

  • Incorrectly label rubbish (so label something as hazardous when it's not and vice versa)
  • Dispose of waste anywhere that isn't licensed to accept it (so outside of a tip or known recycling centre)
  • Export waste (though taking that empty crisp packet in your pocket to France is probably okay…)

What about using someone else's bin? Well, technically putting your rubbish into someone else's wheelie bin could be considered fly-tipping. But you're unlikely to be prosecuted. Using someone else's bin probably falls under the heading of things that you shouldn't do because they're impolite…

Bin Courtesy

Not all considerations involve you getting potentially arrested. It's just common courtesy that you deal with rubbish correctly. This avoids annoying your neighbours and keeps your neighbourhood a nice place to be. So what do you need to think about?

Is it Illegal to Use a Neighbours or Someone Else's Bin?

If a bin is out on the street and it's not particularly full, then you're probably okay to go ahead and ditch that sandwich wrapper. If a bin's over-full you should look for another, since you might cause a rubbish cascade or cause a bin not to be picked up by the bin-men. And, of course, if a bin is in someone's garden or on private property you should avoid trespassing to use it.

Stinking Rubbish

Don't leave bags of stinking rubbish in front of your house, no one wants to smell that as they're walking past. If rubbish smells bad make sure it's well-wrapped up and put it in the back garden or at the side of the house. Wheelie bins that are properly closed (i.e. not over-full) do a lot to combat smells, and a bin store will help limit smells even more. And don't forget to wash your bin out every now and again to get rid of lingering odours.

Overfilling Bins

Overfilling bins so that they won't close, or worse, leaving bags of rubbish piled beside overfull bins is a big no-no. In some cases, the council won't pick up bins that are overfull or extra bags outside of a wheelie bin. If you find that you often have too much rubbish for your bin then contact your council to arrange either an extra pick-up or a bigger bin!

Friendly Neighbours

It's always a nice gesture to bring your neighbour's bin in if you're doing your own as well (as long as you know your neighbour well enough to step onto their property). But don't forget about the bins if you're going away for a while either. Keeping a friendly bin-neighbour means you can ask each other to deal with wheelie bins when holiday time rolls around, so rubbish doesn't sit out smelling for a couple of weeks.

Bin Placement

It's a good idea to keep bins at the side or rear of your house to avoid smells in front of your home. But don't forget to be careful when leaving bins out for the bin men. Don't block driveways, bus stops, cycle paths or footpaths. Ensure that no one can hit your bin and that it's not in anyone's way.

Bin Maintenance

A damaged bin won't do its job and will look unsightly as well. If your bin gets damaged then contact your council for a replacement. Many will replace or fix wheelie bins for free.

Don't Be Rude

It should go without saying that you shouldn't steal anyone else's wheelie bin, but it does happen. If your bin gets stolen or goes missing then report it to your council to get a new one, don't just take someone else's. And don't use your neighbour's bin without asking first!

Extra Rubbish

Every now and again you might have some extra rubbish. Maybe it's just after Christmas or someone's birthday or a big party, maybe you just moved house. If you have more rubbish than usual and this isn't an every week occurrence then you can arrange an extra pick-up with your council. Don't just leave rubbish sitting around because the bin men won't collect it on collection day.

Be Smart

Know your local council's rules about rubbish, you should be able to find them easily online. Different areas have different processes to deal with extra rubbish, garden rubbish, and recycling, so know what you're supposed to do to prevent future problems. And ensure that if you have special rubbish (such as medical waste, which includes adult diapers, diabetic syringes, and all kinds of other things) that you know your local rules about disposing of it.

Disposing of rubbish properly is an environmental concern, but it's also a courtesy towards your neighbours and the people that walk past your property every day. Rubbish isn't pretty, but if we're all courteous, our neighbourhoods can be.

30 thoughts on “Wheelie Bin Etiquette

  1. Irene says:

    My soon to be that’s been staying there way before I bought the property has been putting his bins on the driveway for years. It didn’t have cover and I saw mosquitoes breeding in it after rain. What should I do ? How do I approach him ?

  2. Fed up with crackheads says:

    My crackhead neighbors are the same. Everyone here has a driveway and they leave their bin outside my house? They have 3 cars blocking their own drive. How is this my problem? I wouldn’t even mind but they are fly tippers as well as using my bin. I’m so fed up. How do I deal with this?

  3. Steve says:

    My neighbour keeps moving my bin away from our dividing wall, hence blocking my gate but does it over the fence so does not trespass onto my property. Does anyone know what legal rights I have?

  4. Sara says:

    Hi,
    My neighbour always puts some trash in my wheelie bin, which is, like the others, on the alley. I don’t mind them empty their car’s trash like costa’ cups or bag of chips.
    But today, I saw one of the daughters taking a bag of trash from their house and put it in my bin.
    I tried to knock at the door, she saw me (from the window- as we had eye contact) but didn’t open it. I’ve noticed this for a while; we do differentiate the thrash and everything – and they don’t- so I’m getting pretty upset now.
    What should I do?

  5. Linda says:

    Does anyone know what to do with regards a neighbour dumping their wheelie bin in the alley behind our property.
    We have a gated alley which is shared between 2 streets ( back to back ) but the alley is on a third street ( shops either side)
    For the passed three weeks someone has been dumping a wheelie bin in a recess at the back of our property, ( it’s used to park our car in sometimes) so to get through our gate with my bike I’m having to open locked gate , move this bin out of the way to get through our back gate!!
    We’ve left polite notes pointing out that this bin doesn’t belong to us or neighbours( we’ve asked everyone in our street) and ask that whoever is dumping it there please stops……… but it’s still happening. Would we be within our rights to get rid of the bin permanently?

  6. Thomas O'Moore says:

    I built a very smart quite expensive well constructed bin enclosure duly painted with an unobtrusive garden paint shades grey colour at the bottom of my garden on my land.

    My neighbour complained to the council not sure exactly why apart from they could not open their ‘second’ car backdoor taking up the whole pavement on a one car drive.

    Wigan council said I had to remive it as it was over a metre high. Their own bins are over a metre and most very expensive (£400 plus) bin enclosures are approx 1.2m.

    So seems they would rather them be on show with the risk of blowing over?

    I too am a disabled driver with a war pension and very narrow rear pathway. So its beneficial for me to have them neatky stored at the bottom of my front garden (not near anyones door)

    Crazy situation.

  7. Fiona says:

    Hi, I have an overly friendly neighbour, to cut things short he noticed last week I hadn’t put out my recycling bins. He made his way into my garden, set my car alarm off looked in my bins then walked away. Basically, I didn’t put my bins out because they were empty. Is he within his rights to enter my garden to be ‘helpful’? I know I sound petty but this guy is creepy with the friendliness and I am trying to shake him off. Can I use the bin issue to get him off my back?

  8. Stephen Marks says:

    Hi, my neighbour has decided today to now place her bins on her front inches from my front door. These bins are used for cat litter also and stinks. Can anything be done about this?

    • Malissa says:

      I have exactly the same issue with my neighbour, it’s near my front door and not theirs and also stinks of cat litter etc…. I asked they move it to be outside their front door but all they’ve done is wash it which won’t solve the problem. They don’t want to ruin the look of their door entrance but don’t care how mine looks!!!. This is a health and safety issue, I think we have a case.

    • Marianne says:

      I have a similar problem with my new neighbours. We have a shared drive and because of the layout of the houses I now look straight out on to their wheelie bin which is invariably surrounded by rubbish bags as they don’t recycle and can’t seem to work out when collection day is. I can’t do the gardening now as this wretched plastic dalek plus overflow bags stink to high heaven.

      I asked nicely if they could put it round the back (they have a big garden and a side gate and garden access via the garage) but apparently it’s ‘easier’ to have it in the front garden as they forget when the collection day is and hope the bin men will take it anyway. I never saw the previous neighbours’ rubbish outside of collection day because they were considerate, and they never saw mine.

    • Squirt says:

      So do mine, every bloody Thursday, where my car is parked in my designated parking Space…Im disabled driver and If I have to go out on a Thursday, I have to move them.

    • Helen says:

      I have 2 bins permenately outside my Coachouse and so far have not been able to get them moved.
      I have found out that people should not store bins against other peoples houses as it is classed as a fire hazard as thousands of bins have been set on fire every year.
      Does anyone know if this could be enforced?

    • Helen Nassoro says:

      I also have the same problem the council have told me that the are allowed to leave their bins ther all the time as they own the parking space outside my coach house. I have since found out that it is classed as a fire hazard to leave bins outside people’s houses especially against them.

      • Pete J says:

        I have 2 neighbours who each leave 3 bins directly against the 2 garages under my Coach House windows & in recent heatwave I had to close both my lounge windows due to the stench of rotting foodstuffs rising from these bins despite it being contrary to Building Regs for bins to be kept in direct sunlight & anywhere near ‘habitable windows’ !! Struggling to find my local Environmental Health office here in Nottingham City. Nice neighbours, eh ?

        • Pete J says:

          Well, I dropped my neighbour a note detailing the distress & anxiety this is causing me & politely requesting he move his bins much further away from my windows. No reply other than moving them only a couple of feet further away still close to the building & in direct sunlight, so next week when bins full & temps up to 25deg – wait & see ! Please bear in mind, now he’s aware of the consequences, that an action does not need to be illegal to be regarded as a ‘hate crime’ !!

          • Pete J says:

            Household waste bins should not be placed in direct sunlight ? Yesterday when it was 29C here ambient temp, I suspended a thermometer in my bin & recorded 42C at 1pm and 45C at 3pm – imagine foodwaste exposed to those temps for hours on end ! A bit smelly, as I found out !!

  9. Michelle says:

    I place my bins for collection outside my neighbours house. Not blocking anything. I cannot put them outside my house due to cars parking on the street. My neighbour keepS rudely moving them Obstructing my drive so we cannot pull in or out. Has she a right to do this? They have plenty of room so I’m not causing any obstruction for them.

    • Earmouthproportion says:

      Deal with the parking on the street. If those cars are causing an obstruction then it is a police matter. No, you shouldn’t obstruct your neighbours just because someone else obstructs you. That’s how wars start. The neighbour isn’t obstructing you, they are returning property back to you where you don’t like it to be placed. Grow up.

      • Pragmatic neighbour says:

        Note well this person said « not blocking anything «  so where do you get idea they are obstructing? If cars are parked legally in an area but preventing easy access for bin collectors everyone has a right to place their bins on a more suitable part of the street. No one has the right to continually move other people’s bins from a public pathway, just because they resent their placement on pavement closer to their house…and as for placing them back at neighbours driveway thereby causing obstruction, this is both Illegal and constitutes harassment or intimidation or both! Watch your tone.

        • Pragmatic Solicitor says:

          I’m afraid you are wrong, even though it seems to be common practice to placing bins on the public footpath (outside your own property or a neighbouring property) this is not allowed. It should be within an arms length of or on the boundary of your own property, or a designated bin collection area.

          It’s not legal or acceptable to place bins or anything else outside a neighbouring property without permission.

          • Andrew says:

            Hello pragmatic solicitor… I am experiencing this issue and my local council are refusing to enforce stopping my neighbour from putting their bins on the pavement directly outside my house. I would like to get in touch with you, please email me a.g.spencer at outlook dot com

          • Maria says:

            Dear pragmatic solicitor, I am having this problem, please could you advise what law is being broken if my neighbours are placing bins directly outside my house, on the pavement. Thank you very much

    • Laila says:

      I would not put the bins outside anyone’s house, I would keep them on my property, even blocking my own drive. I can just move the bins when I am pulling in and out. It doesn’t matter if my neighbours have plenty of room or if there’s a park outside my house, they must not pay for somebody else’s problem. A neighbour never had to be “rude” to me or make me a complaint because I never had chosen to bother them instead of bothering myself about my own issues.

  10. Muhammad says:

    Hi there, my neighbour washing bin at the front entrance to my property and when I asked him not to do it , he started doing every week. There is a drain at the entrance on my property and he is using that excuse. However , there are more drain further on the same street as well with no property infront. He washed his bins and dont even brush after words the road leave the soap every where.

    • Scoobie doo says:

      If they are washing detergents down storm drains it becomes an environmental issue and may be illegal, check with local authorities

  11. Glenn B Fleming says:

    My neighbour is now cleaning his bins after collection and leaving whatever remains (grass etc from his garden) on our cul-de-sac and there is no drain near to it, so it stays in the gutter. This is a recent problem and he is deliberately being provocative. Is this legal? Does he have the right to leave the remains in the road?

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