I have had a number of people asking about refuse and recycling during the current crisis and I am here setting out what I think the position is in Tower Hamlets.  All Councils will be different.  The information is all on the TH website, but it can be quite tricky to find at times and is in several different places so I have sought to bring it together here.



The difficulties the Council contracted collection services are suffering are a direct result of the Corona crisis.  Staff are unwell, or are self isolating leading to a reduction in the numbers of operatives available for work.  As with other aspects of our life we must make some adaptions to see us all through the current crisis.



These are continuing and should now be back on your standard day.

A good deal of confusion arose due to industrial action by the Veolia operatives which interrupted collections.  This was followed by a bank holiday.  I understand the industrial action is suspended and now that we are more than a week from the Bank Holiday, collections should revert to their usual collection day, which of course varies throughout the Borough.




These are continuing to be collected as before.  They will be collected on the same day as your landfill collection.


Remember if you are using a purple wheelie bin or a communal purple dumpster, then you do NOT need to use a pink bag.  You can collect your recycling, for example in a bag for life or cardboard box, and simply empty that directly into the wheelie bin or dumpster.  Don’t use black bin bags though, the recycling has to be visible when it arrives at the recycling sorting centre.


Here is a table of what you can and cannot put in the pink bags or purple containers


 Materials  Yes please  No thanks
Paper and card ·        Birthday and Christmas cards

·       Card and cardboard

·       Cardboard boxes (flattened)

·       Cardboard food packaging (e.g. cereal and clean pizza boxes)

·       Envelopes (including ones with windows)

·       Junk mail (please remove any plastic wrapping)

·       Newspapers and magazines

·       Paper – all sizes and colours

·       Phonebooks – including Yellow Pages

·       Shredded paper (please place in a paper bag or an old envelope)

·       Wrapping paper (no foil)

·       Any paper/card containing foil or metal

·       Plastic-coated cardboard, polystyrene

·       Soiled pizza boxes (and other food soiled boxes)

·       Tissues and nappies


Cartons ·        Juice, soup, sauce and milk cartons. Please rinse first  
Mixed Glass


·       All glass bottles and all glass jars, including beer and wine bottles, sauce jars, dressing (salad) bottles and jam jars. Please rinse first. ·       Any other glass items including:

·       Drinking glasses

·       Mirrors

·       Sheet (window) glass

Tins and cans ·       Drink cans

·       Food tins

·       Pet food tins

·       Empty aerosol tins

·       Foil trays

·       Sweet tins

·       Metal bottle tops

·       Jar lids

·       Any other metal items
Plastic ·       Bottles and caps, including drinks, shampoo and washing up bottles

·       Food trays

·       Fruit and vegetable punnets

·       Margarine tubs, ice-cream tubs, and yoghurt pots

·       Food trays

·       Crisp bags

·       Food film

·       Plastic bags – please reuse them.

·       Plastic food pouches

·       Bubble wrap

·       Polystyrene





All of the Council Idea Stores are closed and so pink bags cannot be collected.

The contractors have been tasked with delivering a supply of pink bags to every house in the Borough.

I know that I have received such a delivery, but I am unconvinced this operation is comprehensive or complete.

If you run out of pink bags, why not ask a neighbour (while keeping social distancing) if you can place your recycling in their wheelie if there is space?

I have noticed a certain reluctance to take loose cardboard but I am hoping that this will be a thing of the past as the service moves onto a more solid routine.

As far as I am aware there is no way of requesting a delivery of pink bags to your home, so please use them sensibly and share with neighbours if you consider it safe to do so.


FOOD WASTE (Green bags and Brown Containers) AND GARDEN WASTE (Big Green Bags or Green Wheelie Bins)




Food waste should be placed in black bin bags and combined with other landfill waste or put out with the landfill for collection on your usual day.  Do not put brown containers out with food waste in them.  They will not be emptied.  It must be put in a black bin bag for landfill collection.  Please don’t be tempted to put food waste into the pink recycling bags or pink bins.  It will contaminate the recycling which will lead to the whole load being sent to landfill.


I know that for most people there is no scope for doing so, but are you able to home compost?  The Council scheme which allows you to order a composting bin or a wormery for £5 is suspended, but they may be available commercially for delivery


Garden waste.  If you are able to store the garden waste in your garden then that is ideal.  If you create a pile of it if you have space it will be fine to rest there until it can be collected even if that is months in the future.  If you are unable to do that then place it in black bin bags and it will be collected and disposed as landfill.



The Council Reuse and Recycling Centre (I still call it the Council Dump) at Yabsley Street, London E14 9RG is now closed and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future.

I suggest that you retain, if you are able to, items which you might otherwise take to the dump until it reopens.



These are suspended for the foreseeable future.

Each home address is ordinarily permitted two free bulky waste collections a year.  At present it will be necessary to hang on to bulky items until the resumption of this service.

Alistair Polson

19 April 2020

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