Its recycling rate is also one of the highest of the UK’s ‘core cities’ group of eight large regional cities.
Unlike many other councils, Bristol’s kerbside service does not just collect garden waste and dry recyclables such as cans, paper and bottles. It also collects food waste, textiles, shoes, batteries and more.
“Seventy percent of Bristol people’s waste can be recycled,” says Liz Kirkland, the council’s service development and planning manager.
She says the only items that some householders may currently find it hard to recycle are plastic bottles and packaging, and the council has plans to address this. By the end of the year the council aims to add to its 45 plastics bottle banks so that there is one within a mile of every household.
Collections of food waste, which are taken to Dorset and composted, began in 2006. “We wanted to make a big step change in our recycling,” says Ms Kirkland. “The challenge has been convincing people and the local media that it is a good, clean service. It’s not smelly and messy, and it doesn’t breed maggots and flies.”
Nearly 70% of households allocated the bins now use the weekly food waste service, although some large blocks of flats are still exempt.
Take-up has been supported with education about food storage and the development of special bin bags for recycling food waste which are made from corn starch and are 100% compostable.
The service has also been piloted in 30 of the city’s schools, and a proposal recently went to the council’s cabinet for rolling it out to others across the city.
As for garden waste disposal, residents have to pay for the service if they want it. “Not every household should have to pay for those who have large gardens,” says Ms Kirkland. “It is about making things fair and equitable.”
Bristol’s overall recycling rate of 37% is not exceptional when compared with all UK councils, but it is one of the best performing ‘core cities’, with which it is most comparable.
“We have a lot of hard-to-reach groups,” explains Ms Kirkland. “They include students, who form 10% of the city’s population, people on short-term contracts, those whose first language is not English, and people in flats, for whom a programme of mini recycling centres is now being introduced.”