Fob-access recycling bins deployed to fight contamination

26 January 2016
Image of a recycling bin.

Slough Borough Council and its environmental services provider Amey - with the collaboration of Ferrovial Services Centre of Excellence for Cities - is launching a six-month trial of electronically-activated recycling bins, in a bid to tackle a growing problem with contamination.

From this week (beginning 25 January) around 300 households with communal recycling facilities will have their recycling bins replaced with either a bin shelter – a fixed structure with a secure chute (see picture attached) – or a more traditional-looking wheeled bin with a lockable flap in the lid.

The bins lock automatically and can only be opened by pressing an electronic fob against a sensor panel.
All of the homes taking part in the trial will receive their own fob.

The council and Amey hope the scheme will stop non-residents misusing the bins and help reverse a worrying rise in the number of recycling loads rejected at Grundon waste plant due to contamination.

Plastic bags, clothes, food and electrical items are often found in red recycling bins, despite being only for mixed paper and card, plastic bottles, glass bottles/jars, food tins and drinks cans. Dirty nappies, whole vacuum cleaners and even lawnmower parts have also been found.

Nick Hannon, environmental strategy and governance manager for Slough Borough Council, said: “Contaminated recycling ends up being disposed of as normal waste, which costs the taxpayer three times as much and isn’t as kind to the environment.

“It’s a growing problem and we’re having to think of new ways to tackle it.

“We’ve already removed some recycling facilities from supermarkets and now we’re turning to this new type of smart bin technology, which we believe hasn’t been used in the UK before.

“Being secure, the bin shelters and the lockable wheeled bins should prevent anyone who doesn’t have a fob from dumping non-recyclable items in with the recycling.

“The bin shelters also gather information electronically that will enable us to understand more about recycling trends and how the borough as a whole can recycle more.”

The bins record every time someone uses their fob but not what they’re recycling.

The council won’t be scrutinising people’s individual recycling habits.

Councillor Satpal Parmar, commissioner of environment and open spaces, said: “We’re committed to improving the quality and quantity of recycling and reducing the amount we send to landfill. This trial is promising because it could be the answer we’re looking for.

“We know contamination is often worse at blocks of flats or on estates – where people have communal bins that can be accessed by anyone – so it makes sense to trial it in those places first.

“I look forward to hearing what residents think and whether it improves recycling rates.

“Ultimately, if it works, we could see this scheme rolled out across the borough.”

Richard West, account manager at Amey, said: “We are always looking for new ways to work with the council to reduce the amount of contaminated waste and encourage residents to recycle more.

“The new recycling bins should help to do this by giving residents ownership of local communal bins and greater pride in their community.

“We are hopeful that recycling rates will increase with the introduction of the new bins, and local residents can always ask our teams for advice on what can and can’t be recycled.”

For more information see or call Amey on 0800 634 6301.