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…
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…
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.
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 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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.