Three-weekly black bin collections on the way for South Glos residents

Photo of two councillors emptying recycling containers into bins.
Council leader Cllr Claire Young and co-leader Cllr Ian Boulton at the Page Road car park drop-off site. Archive image from the period of industrial action by bin workers in 2023.

South Gloucestershire Council (SGC) has told the government it needs to reduce black bin collections to once every three weeks.

The local authority, which last month launched a search for a new waste partner to collect rubbish from the kerbside, says doing this less frequently will help it plug a funding gap and hit recycling targets.

It has asked bidders to submit costs for fortnightly collections, which would continue as normal to begin with when the new contract starts in August 2025, as well as three-weekly.

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But in a briefing to Whitehall, obtained by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, the council’s clear preference is the latter and to introduce it the following year.

It has said this would only happen after measures were put in place to recycle more household materials, including soft plastics which is being extended to thousands of more homes following a pilot project.

A 25-year contract with Suez ends next year, and last October the Lib Dem/Labour Cabinet approved plans to go out to tender for a kerbside collection service run by a private operator for eight years, with the option of a further eight years.

But it faces a financial gap of £3 million to £5 million and is taking steps to meet some of the shortfall, including doubling the cost of its garden waste collections from £30 to £60 in this year’s budget.


In its briefing, the local authority wrote:

“There is no other viable option to increase recycling substantially without moving to three-weekly.”

“Saving from increased food waste collection will be minor unless SGC moves to less frequent black bin collections.”

“If SGC is to meet its target of 70 per cent recycling by 2030 and meet its carbon targets, as well as fund the service – three-weekly is seen as crucial.”

“SGC is planning to continue with the proposal to bring in three-weekly in 2026.”

One stumbling block is proposed future statutory guidance, announced by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) in October, that would require local authorities to collect black bin waste at least once every two weeks.

But the council has told the government that external legal advice stated this would not be compulsory as long as it had “cogent reasons”.

It argued three-weekly collections were the “only way to substantially meet our financial challenge for the waste service” and the “only way to increase recycling rate and substantially meet the council carbon targets”.

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The local authority said more than half of residents said they felt they could cope with the reduced collections and other councils had shown it worked.

Last month SGC’s Cabinet approved the move to once-every-three-weeks from 2026, subject to any statutory requirements mandating a minimum frequency, saying it expected to save at least £1 million a year by doing this.

Reducing it further to four-weekly is not recommended to go forward following public feedback.

But the organisation has said no decisions have been taken on the final shape of the new contract as bids are still being received.

Infographic showing types of waste found in the average black bin.
Analysis of waste in the average black bin (South Gloucestershire, 2022).

The district has one of the highest household recycling rates in the country – 60 percent – but analysis shows that more than one-third of waste in black bins should not be in there as it could be recycled through the existing kerbside recycling collections.

Final bids for the contract are expected in the summer before a decision to appoint the successful bidder in October.

Article by Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS).

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