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Revealed: the UK’s best refuse collectors – and how many bin collections are missed each year


With early starts and all weathers, Britain’s refuse collection crews are among the hardest working professionals in the country. And new data collected by Whitespace has revealed which local authorities are providing the most efficient domestic rubbish services to UK households.

To understand how council waste management teams are performing under intense resource and budget pressures, we requested data from 299 local authorities under the Freedom of Information Act (2000).

132 councils responded – and here are our key findings:

Which UK councils have the best refuse collectors?

Of those who responded to our data request, Cornwall Council has cause to celebrate, as its collection crews are the best in the UK – missing just 0.017% of all domestic bin collections, which is much lower than the national average rate of 0.75%.

South Hams Council follows closely behind with a missed bin collection rate of 0.021%, while Braintree Council is in third place with 0.052%.

Encouragingly, nine of UK’s top 10 local authorities miss less than 0.1% of bin collections each year, with Horsham District Council, Breckland Council, Cannock Chase District Council, Watford Borough Council, Dover District Council and South Ribble Borough Council all scoring highly. Islington Council rounds out the top 10 with a missed domestic rubbish collection rate of 0.1%.

Region Average rate of missed bin collections
Cornwall 0.017%
South Hams 0.021%
Braintree 0.052%
Horsham 0.059%
Breckland 0.067%
Cannock Chase 0.077%
Watford 0.079%
Dover 0.091%
South Ribble 0.096%
Islington 0.10%


How many UK bin collections are missed each year?

While it’s heartening to see so many councils performing well, missed bin collections are still a regular challenge that waste management teams need to deal with.

Britain’s collection crews pick up more than 285 million bags of domestic rubbish each year, with municipal waste management costing UK local authorities more than £975 million annually.

On average, more than 745,000 domestic bin collections are missed nationwide, including 732,555 in 2018 and 758,426 in 2019 (the most recent available data) – indicating that figures could be rising.

Equally, there could be more missed collections than those officially recorded, as some refuse crews report bins as not present if they haven’t been put out in time. However, residents who’ve missed their slot may still report their bin as a missed collection later in the day or week.

Why do bin collections get missed?

There are multiple factors that can lead to refuse collection problems, including:

  • Households putting out rubbish incorrectly e.g. out of sight from the road, on the wrong day, in the wrong colour bin
  • Under-resourced collection crews running out of time to complete their full round – an issue that became even more acute during the pandemic due to sickness, self-isolation and social distancing measures
    Read more on how councils protected waste management teams during COVID-19.
  • Mistakes and miscommunications about the route each crew should take resulting in entire streets being missed out
  • Larger-than-expected volumes of waste leading to refuse trucks filling up before their round is complete – something that frequently occurs during peak periods like Christmas
  • Imbalanced division of responsibilities meaning some refuse teams cannot complete their full round, while others have a lighter workload and can finish their route with time to spare and space to collect more rubbish

Many of these problems can be solved with better planning and agile resource management – and when we look at how the UK’s top-performing councils are rising to the challenge, there’s a clear trend emerging…

What makes some waste management teams perform better than others?

The key factor that separates the country’s best bin collectors from the rest is the way in which they control logistics: 8 out of the top 10 local authorities are using Whitespace municipal waste management software to coordinate their collections.

Upgrading manual spreadsheets and paper round sheets to digital waste management technology improves collection capabilities in a number of ways:

  • Clear workflows can be created online and sent directly to collection crews via in-cab mobile technology, so everyone knows exactly what’s expected of them
  • In-cab communication also provides valuable real-time feedback – for example, noting where bins are not present and may therefore need collecting later in the round, avoiding residents reporting a missed collection that needs to be picked up separately
  • Critical data from every collection is recorded centrally, so waste management teams can understand route requirements, peaks in rubbish volumes and other important information
  • Routes can be optimised to make sure that every collection crew has an equally balanced workload and the capacity to collect all the rubbish left out
  • Connecting office-based teams with refuse collection crews mean issues can be fed back in real-time – and ad hoc round sheets created to deal with these problems quickly
  • Improved communication between all waste management staff enables everyone to understand where inefficiencies lie, tackling them as a priority to reduce the chance of future missed bin collections
  • Collection data can be analysed and reported to senior council officials, to prove waste management teams are meeting their targets and make a clear business case for future investments

But even with domestic refuse services running like a well-oiled machines, sometimes bin collections get missed. In this scenario, leading local authorities with waste management technology in place are encouraging households to report problems quickly via an online resident portal or mobile app – to clear backlogs without impacting workload on future rounds.

Why is it so important for councils to use waste management software?

Local authorities are under extreme pressure to maintain waste management services on tight budgets, and the pandemic has increased the financial strain that many councils face.

Waste management software gives councils the digital tools and data insights to make smart decisions and put them into action quickly, to save time and money, and get the maximum value from available refuse collection resources.

And it’s not just office teams and collection crews that benefit from waste management technology; residents get very frustrated when their bin isn’t taken away. Giving them the capacity to log missed collections online gets the problem sorted quicker and provides a better standard of service.

Book your free Whitespace municipal waste management software demo to cut back your missed bin collections. Over 100 UK local authorities are already using our technology.

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