Service disruption sees Wandsworth separate cardboard

The London borough of Wandsworth says residents should no longer place bulky cardboard inside their recycling bags due to a shortage of staff and sacks, as well as an increase in cardboard waste. 

Cardboard will be collected if it is flattened, dry and neatly stacked

Instead, residents have been asked to leave cardboard “flattened, dry and neatly stacked” alongside the commingled recycling sack, from where it will be “collected as normal”.

Around 80,000 homes are covered by the clear sack doorstep scheme, launched more than 15 years ago, via which Wandsworth collects plastic bottles, pots, tubs and trays, mixed glass, food and drink cans, mixed paper and card, and food and drink cartons. 

This is processed at Cory’s materials recycling facility in the borough.

On 3 September, the council asked residents to leave cardboard out because the amount of waste produced by households since the pandemic began has increased “significantly”, meaning people are using more sacks. 

The council also blamed cases of Covid-19 resulting in its collections contractor, Serco, experiencing staffing problems, and the national driver shortage. 


Wandsworth’s environment spokesman, Cllr Steffi Sutters, said: “Not only has the absence of lorry drivers disrupted collections, but it has also affected the distribution of clear sacks. 

“The situation has meant that the remaining resources have been diverted to the collection of black bag waste which is a priority for health and nuisance reasons. 

“We are in the process of delivering fresh stocks of recycling sacks to every eligible household, but in the meantime, if people want to use other clear coloured sacks for their recycling this is fine, as is leaving out bulky cardboard unbagged.” 

Wandsworth sources the clear plastic sacks for its residents from Imperial Polythene. 


The council says cardboard will be collected if it is flattened, dry and neatly stacked alongside people’s other recycling and general waste. 

Residents are requested to avoid leaving cardboard out for extended periods in the rain, as it will not be possible to collect if it is too wet. 

Wandsworth council told that collecting the cardboard separately from the clear sacks should make “no difference whatsoever” to their arrangements. 


Representing an estimated population of nearly 330,000, the London borough of Wandsworth had a household waste recycling rate of 23.7% in the 2019/20 financial year. 

The council currently holds a collection contract with Serco, agreed in 2012, which is set to end in 2024 (see story). Recycling and residual waste are each collected weekly.

The council says clear sacks are employed so that collection staff can see if the contents have been contaminated. It claims it is “not uncommon” to find food waste, dirty nappies and other “unrecyclable” items inside the clear sacks. 

The homes covered by the scheme are mostly low rise, with their own individual refuse and recycling collections. High rise properties or those with communal waste and recycling facilities use orange lidded recycling banks instead. 

Wandsworth is not without precedent in asking residents to leave bulky cardboard out of the sacks. In the borough of Hillingdon, the council asks residents to flatten large cardboard items and place them underneath their tied recycling bags. 


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