Three-bin system is better for Northern Ireland householders, the environment and the future of the local recycling industry

The government should opt for the fully commingled three-bin system across all households in Northern Ireland to help meet fast approaching climate commitments, to avoid £1 billion of public sector spend and to bolster the local recycling sector.

At present, council areas in Northern Ireland use the three or six-bin system and Daera’s (the Department of Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs) own data shows the areas which use the three-bin system consistently rank amongst the highest in terms of recycling. The data shows the alternative kerbside box system, where householders are required to sort their waste in up to six bins, produces the lowest recycling rate.

It has also been proven householders prefer the simpler, three bin system.

A survey of nearly 2,000 (1,991) householders across Northern Ireland carried out by LucidTalk found over 79% of those currently using the three-bin system don’t want to switch to six bins. Meanwhile, three quarters (76%) said switching to the six-bin system would discourage them from recycling more. Of those currently using the six- bin system, over half would like to switch to the simpler, three-bin system.

Householders are also against the £1 billion estimated cost which councils will be faced with if Daera opts for the six-bin system, describing it has ‘unjustified and could be spent on hospitals and schools’.

Three bin system

Joseph Doherty, Chief Executive of Re-Gen, said: “The three-bin system, sorts waste using the latest and fast developing technology (such as robotics and artificial intelligence) and also produces high quality paper, plastic and metal recyclate which is used by local companies to make new products. With a small investment, glass could also be used by the local recycling sector, a move which would help complete the circular waste economy.

“The evidence is clear the three-bin system encourages more recycling so is better for the environment, is preferred by householders for its simplicity and also produces a premium level of recyclate to help bolster Northern Ireland’s circular economy. We encourage DAERA to adopt the three bin, fully commingled system, and let recycling companies do what we do best: sort waste and produce high quality recyclate which is better for our planet.”

The company was speaking in response to the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs’ (Daera) ongoing consultation into the future of household waste collection which is attempting to find one, uniform method of waste collection which is best for the region’s environmental future. The consultation closes on 27th June 2024.

In England, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs announced last month that it would operate the three-bin system across the whole region, a move it said was driven by the fact the simpler system leads to higher levels of recycling.

  • The LucidTalk survey was carried out in May 2024. It achieved 1,991 responses from householders in council areas across Northern Ireland who are currently using the three and six bin systems.
  • Analysis carried out by environmental consultancy Taggarts looked at the financial impact which a move to the kerbside box system for all council areas would have, taking into consideration all costs associated with the move.
  • It includes around £90 million for new lorries capable of collecting the boxes (current council bin lorries can only collect wheelie bins); the provision of new boxes around £35 million; a £250,000 annual charge to replace broken boxes and a raft of other costs.

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