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For garden waste, there is a range of solutions possible to suit each case. In the debate on whether to use wheelie bins or sacks for garden waste collection, there are several basic factors to evaluate. In many cases the only evaluation has been to compare annual cost of bags with investments in bins.

If cost is the only factor to evaluate, the cost of distribution of bins and bags, cost of collecting the waste as well as cost of treatment should be included in the equation. If this is done, the cost of the two alternatives are comparable.

If the objective is to collect maximum tonnage of garden waste, using bins will increase the amount of waste arising compared with garden waste sacks. However, to use cost per tonne rather than cost per household gives a misleading impression of the efficiency of the waste collection.

The objectives in the EU landfill directive as well as in the National and area waste strategies, are primarily to reduce the waste arising and to divert biodegradable organic material from landfill sites. The calculated diversion should therefore be based on the residual amount of organic matter going to landfill and not the amount of organic matter collected.

All experience so far is that use of wheelie bins for garden waste collection will significantly increase the total tonnage of waste collected, bringing in new waste streams previously not collected/landfilled. Therefore only a fraction of this waste can be accounted for as a diversion from landfill.

A sustainable strategy can be to encourage home composting and divert both garden and food waste from landfill. In practice (and despite campaigns and support program), many householders claim to have too small a garden or too little garden waste to home compost (so why have a huge bin instead). A lot of householders find it easier to have food and garden waste collected. In addition, centralized in-vessel composting and windrow composting produces a valuable resource that can be sold/supplied back to the householders to encourage source segregation.

A sustainable alternative to wheeled bin collection that also can support home composting, is to use compostable garden waste sacks (BioBags) for garden waste collection as needed. The main advantages with bags are that they don't take up valuable space in small gardens or on the pavement, they are easy and cost effective to pick up (time for collection is usually less than half compared to bins). They give flexibility and capacity according to need. The sacks have also a lot of other advantages compared to wheeled bins (see below) and are therefore preferred as an alternative to bins by many councils in the UK as well as in other countries.

The general household/council advantages of bags are:

  • No capital investment
  • Easy and efficient distribution by the council
  • Compact to store for the council as well as the householders.
  • Flexible capacity to meet householder's needs and seasonal demands.
  • Easier for the householders to bring to the kerbside for collection, especially for terraced houses (no need to roll the bin through the house or a quarter of a mile around the block).
  • Efficient pickup (typically less than ½ the time per household than for wheeled bins).
  • Flexibility in pickup fleet, no need for HGV licence and better access to narrow streets as well as lower cost to run
  • Take up less space on the pavement and increase accessibility in busy streets (in addition there are no bins left on the pavement after the collection)
  • Less contamination of the compostable waste with non-compostable waste
  • 2-4 weeks collection cycles possible without smell/leachate problems
  • No bin cleaning required
  • 12.5 kg (25 lb) capacity in handy comfortable size

The special advantages of BioBags are:

  • Made from a “breathable” material that will let moisture evaporate. Therefore no slimy and fermenting garden waste.
  • Weight loss of up to 25% due to evaporation of water; that is 25% less cost for treatment as well (gate fee).
  • 2-4 week guarantee. Sacks keep their strength and integrity when filled with waste.
  • Can be used for seasonal storage of grass cuttings and leaves for home composters for better mixing of feedstock
  • Sacks and contents can be shredded directly on delivery to composting plant, no need to remove bags.
  • Sacks will fully compost in a windrow typically within 10-14 days after shredding
  • Made from GM-free corn starch and vegetable oils
  • LCA / Whole-life assessment is better than PE and paper equivalents