This section outlines details of equipment that can be used on-site to support different recycling collection schemes.  It includes:

  • guidance on the amount of capacity required to contain refuse and recycling;
  • an illustrated outline of equipment currently available e.g. trolleys, collection containers and composting equipment; and
  • links to further information.

Collection containers and capacity requirements

Issues to consider when selecting or purchasing recycling and food waste collection containers for both indoor and outdoor use include:

  • expected lifetime of the containers and the costs and logistics of replacing them;
  • risks associated with the container (e.g. manual handing, fire risk, choking hazards etc);
  • size and ease of storage within homes or externally;
  • likelihood of liquid seepage – particularly of food waste;
  • potential to print instructions or messages on the container (e.g. lists or pictures of accepted materials);
  • compatibility with other equipment (e.g. collection vehicles, whether single use bags will fit into chutes);
  • capacity and/or number of containers (e.g. capacity needs to provide enough space for recyclable materials; without being too heavy when full) – this will depend on the scheme and frequency of collection; and
  • regulatory requirements e.g. for food waste the Animal By-Products Order1.

It is essential for authorities to have some internal guidance in place to determine the number and size of containers that need to be provided at each site.

Capacity requirements will vary between recycling schemes and sites. For example a site serving 50 households will require more capacity than a site serving 20 households. Capacity requirements will also vary depending on the size of flats, e.g. sites with flats with three bedrooms will need more capacity for recycling than flats with one bedroom. 

Capacity requirements can be determined in different ways. In the London Borough of Tower Hamlets capacity required for a bring recycling system was modelled using four different scenarios:

  1. Capacity for flats was outlined in the council’s planning guidance
  2. Known performance of bring recycling schemes for flats located in other authorities
  3. Capacity required to contain the volume of recyclable material that the Council needed to collect to meet its recycling target
  4. Capacity needed to contain all the recyclable material available in the waste stream (assessed through waste audits).

Read a summary of capacity requirements for waste and recycling from different local authorities.

WRAP has developed a downloadable tool based on the amount of recyclable materials arising in flats (based on waste audits outcomes) and the bulk density (volume) of materials from previous WRAP research. Local authorities can insert local data to this tool and use it to:

  • at an operational level, plan the capacity for recycling and the number of containers required to provide recycling and food waste collections to different blocks of flats;
  • inform the development of guidance documents for architects and developers by providing an indication of the storage capacity required for different materials; and
  • provide an indication of the total weight of different materials generated at blocks of flats to assist with operational and strategic planning.

Read more about waste and recycling capacity requirements in the code for sustainable homes.

The Animal By Products Regulation came into force throughout the EU on 1 May 2003 and was enforceable in England from 1 July 2003. The regulations introduce stringent conditions throughout the food and feed chains, requiring safe collection, transport, storage, handling, processing, use and disposal of animal by-products. See the relevant section on food waste collections from flats for further information.

Internal containers for residents

Collection containers for residents to use within the flat may be set out for door to door collection or may be used for residents to store and transport materials to communal facilities (e.g. collection points on each floor, bring schemes or recycling chutes).

Communal containers

Communal containers may be placed externally or on each floor of the building. If placed on each floor of the building collection logistics, manual handing and fire safety are important factors that need to be carefully considered. Please note the Local Government Association recommends recyclable material is not stored internally within communal areas of blocks of flats. Read more about fire safety related to internal collections. Containers may need to be secured in place, e.g. bolted to the floor or wall. A building surveyor may be required to advise on the most appropriate way of securing the bins.

Equipment to support containers

There is a range of equipment available that can be used alongside collection containers to improve their performance and reduce the possibility of problems. For example:

  • Sound deadening equipment and noise reduction kits.
  • Hard standing and paving to provide a firm base for the containers to stand on and be moved over.
  • Lockable posts and frames to secure containers in position and restrict how far lids can be lifted (officers should check that frames and hard standing will not interfere with underground utilities).
  • Fencing, walls, trellis or shrubbery to screen containers (avoid putting shrubs in pots, as these will require regular watering and make sure that the containers aren’t too secluded to avoid risk of vandalism).
  • Signage to promote the recycling site and what can be recycled (check the requirements for fixing this in place e.g. whether metal plates have pre-drilled fixing points).
  • If containers are to be placed next to garages or other flat roofed buildings anti-climb paint could be applied to the roof, with accompanying signage, to deter people from gaining unauthorised access.
  • Locks for containers and bin chambers. Consider using non standard locks to reduce risk of contamination and use by traders.  The importance of keeping containers locked should be communicated to caretakers and collection crews. A supply of spare locks should be available to caretakers and crews so that any missing padlocks can be replaced promptly.


Trolleys can be used to reduce manual handling, make recyclables easier to transport and improve collection times. These may be used for door to door collections or collections on each floor. Key issues to consider when purchasing and using trolleys include:

  • Manual handling and health and safety e.g. the weight of the trolley when loaded and any moving parts that could cause injury
  • What training or guidance will need to be provided to those using the trolley
  • What the storage requirements are for the trolley when not in use (e.g. whether it can be folded away to minimise space needed or stored outside)
  • How flexible the trolley is if extra materials are to be collected e.g. whether it could accommodate food waste as well as dry recycling
  • How noisy the trolley will be and how this might be reduced e.g. by using rubber tyres, securing metal parts of the trolley
  • Whether the dimensions of the trolley will allow it to fit into lifts, through doorways and around tight corners
  • Whether the trolley is robust enough to be used externally as well as internally for example being wheeled over uneven paving slabs

Mechanical chute scheme

Mechanical chute schemes require residents to select an option - refuse or recycling – at the chute door. This moves a mechanism that guides the recycling or refuse into the correct collection containers at the bottom of the chute.  The equipment needed varies between systems but can include:

  • Mechanical addition at the base of the chute
  • Control panel for residents on the chute door
  • Electrical relay / interface to relay information between the chute door and the base of the chute
  • An override system to allow maintenance to take place
  • An electrical isolator to ensure that work can take place on the chute without affecting the electricity supply to the rest of the building
  • Lighting for the chute chamber to assist maintenance work

Personal protective equipment for collection crews and / or caretakers

Personal protective equipment will be needed for anyone handling recyclable material or containers.  This could include:

  • Gloves
  • Goggles
  • High visibility jackets
  • Steel toe cap boots
  • Protective trousers / overalls

Information packs for crews and caretakers

Information  packs can be provided alongside face to face training sessions to key staff involved in the delivery of a recycling or food waste collection scheme such as collection crews; enforcement staff; caretakers; cleaners; housing mangers/ wardens; and call centre staff.  Information should cover:

  • How the scheme operates
  • Collection days
  • Materials that are accepted for recycling and key contaminants that could be expected
  • Procedures for reporting and addressing issues and key contacts at the council
  • Safe working practices

Want to know more?

Find out about British Standards relating to waste collection and disposal

Read about the code for sustainable homes (which includes waste and recycling capacity requirements)

Search the web for information about how other local authorities have approached issues.  For example the following guidance is available from Bath and North East Somerset Council and Ipswich.

Download more examples of  communication materials from the Recyclenow partners webpage

View the site inspection form used by Bournemouth Borough Council to introduce new recycling bring containers

Download a protocol developed for Tower Hamlets to assist site assessments for recycling bring bank

Read more about the basic criteria that could be taken into account when assessing the feasibility of different collection schemes for a particular block

Use this summary of capacity requirements for waste and recycling from different local authorities to help inform your capacity requirements

Download files

By downloading resources you are agreeing to use them according to our terms and conditions.

These files may not be suitable for users of assistive technology.

  • WRAP-8 Tower Hamlets bring bank protocol.pdf

    PDF, 41.19 KB

  • WRAP-Flats recycling capacity guidance.pdf

    PDF, 212.76 KB

  • Capacity guidance tool.xlsx

    XLSX, 1.05 MB




Re-use and recycling