Tonbridge and Malling to expand flats recycling scheme

Tonbridge and Malling council will next week vote on plans to bring forward the rollout of its recycling service for communal flats.

The council started a pilot scheme in September 2021, which involved delivering new recycling bins enabling residents to separate dry recyclables.

New recycling bins for dry recyclables were delivered to 2500 properties, and the communal bin stores reconfigured to reduce some of the residual waste capacity in preparation for moving to alternate weekly collections.

Containers were delivered for the separate collection of card and paper, plastic, glass and cans.

For purposes of better monitoring, collections were moved from Friday to Saturday, as they could then take place separately from other properties in the area.

After monitoring the use of bins daily, the officers communicated with the residents not using the bins correctly to reduce risk of the recycling being contaminated and rejected by the reprocessors.

Under the original plans, 2500 communal properties were due to receive the containers over the next 21 months, but now the council want to roll this out by the end of 2022.


In the first three months of the pilot, the dry recycling rate of households using the communal bin service was approximately 22% compared to 28% for other households.

While the council said there is potential for improvement, it stated residents have “adapted to the changes well and seem keen to engage with the new recycling services”.

The challenge for the council is that the use of communal bin stores leaves very little control as to who puts what material into which bin. This increases the risk of contamination.

The pilot scheme served as a way to experience and learn from any potential challenges in preparation for the wider rollout.

‘Realistic’ timescale

The timeline of the rollout is now proposed by the Kent-based authority to be shortened to be “more realistic”.

It’s hoped the rollout will eventually cover all communal properties in Tonbridge and the surrounding areas.

At the same time, it is also essential “not to move any faster than the proposed accelerated timescale” in order to deliver the same quality of service and minimise risk of failure, the council report suggested. The council will vote on whether to approve the shortened timeline on 8 February.

Tonbridge and Malling serves around 120,000 residents and recorded a 51.6% recycling rate in the 2020/21 financial year. Waste and recycling collections are carried out by Urbaser as part of a contract worth around £4.3 million signed in 2018.


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