Solar-powered bins to boost Brixton recycling

Paula and Ion with one of the new ‘mobile recycling points’

Eye-catching solar-powered recycling bins are being installed in Brixton and other parts of Lambeth by environmental charity Hubbub and the council.

Their ‘Lambeth #InTheLoop’  campaign is designed to make it as easy as possible for people to recycle empty glass, plastic bottles and cans while on the move.

Coffee cups will be collected separately in a small-scale trial in Brixton using new dedicated cup recycling bins.

Find your closest bins with this map.

It is estimated that nine in 10 of UK residents recycle at home compared to only four in 10 who recycle on-the-go.

In 2019 an estimated 8bn drinks containers failed to be recycled in the UK. That means they were either landfilled, incinerated or littered.

Less than half of local authorities currently have on-street recycling systems.

This Lambeth initiative is part of #InTheLoop, the UK’s biggest collaborative approach to boost recycling on-the-go, which was trialled in Leeds in 2018, followed by similar trials in Swansea, Edinburgh, Dublin, Wimbledon and Telford.

Across the previous pilot projects, more 2.1mn plastic and glass bottles and cans were collected and recycled.

A study by Hubbub and Lambeth council revealed that only six in 10 plastic bottles, glass or cans ended up in the borough’s recycling bins.

Hubbub is an award-winning charity and social enterprise that won the Charity of the Year Award in 2020 and Best Social Media Presence in 2021 at the Charity Times Awards.

With Lambeth #InTheLoop, 80 new look bins (40 pairs of recycling and rubbish bins) will be positioned in Brixton, Waterloo, Vauxhall, Clapham, Streatham and West Norwood.

They can collect empty glass, plastic bottles and cans.

The bins are solar compacting and are fitted with smart sensors to detect how full they are so they can capture more waste and need to be emptied less often.

Councillor Rezina Chowdhury using one of the new bins

They also feature a bright design and clear messaging designed to reduce the frequency of the recycling being too contaminated with the wrong items to recycle.

Contamination is a key issue Lambeth #InTheLoop is aiming to address.

A recent analysis of the current on-street bins showed that 74% of coffee cups are incorrectly ending up in the recycling bins.

Coffee cups are made from cardboard, but are lined with plastic. The difficulty in separating the two materials means cups cannot be recycled in the usual way.

However, coffee cups can be recycled if they are collected separately.

New dedicated cup recycling bins will therefore be trialled specifically in Brixton.

In the borough’s other centres, coffee cups should be disposed in the rubbish bins or given to new “mobile recycling points”. These are street sweeper barrows that have been rebranded by Hubbub and are operated by the council’s new waste contractor.

People are being urged to put items likes food waste and crisp packets in the general waste section of the bin and to think “if in doubt, leave it out” – and to ensure packaging is always empty before it is recycled. 

The council will be working with Hubbub to measure the impact and effectiveness of the new binsand #InTheLoop.

It is hoped the campaign will contribute to the development of a blueprint for other local authorities to follow.

Cllr Rezina Chowdhury, cabinet member for sustainable Lambeth and clean air, said: “These new smart bins give us all more opportunities to recycle our rubbish when we’re out and about in the borough.

“We all want to do our bit when it comes to being environmentally friendly, and this is another way to easily contribute. Using these new bins will also help keep our streets cleaner.

In Lambeth the number of local people who are recycling at home has gone up over the last year, with the borough becoming the best in inner London.

“Let’s all try and match that by using these new bins to recycle more when we’re out of the house.”

Lambeth #InTheLoop is funded by the council with additional financial support from a coalition of funders who have supported #InTheLoop: Bunzl, Coca-Cola GB, Costa, Danone, Ecosurety, Highland Spring Group, Innocent, Nestle, Subway and Starbucks.

Glass, plastic bottles and cans will be collected by Serco and sorted by Western Riverside Waste Authority, ready for recycling in the UK and Europe. Coffee cups will be collected by Paper Round and recycled in the UK by James Cropper.