Visually-impaired sisters helped to recycle by adapted wheelie bins

Visually-impaired residents in the London Borough of Sutton can now receive help with recycling through a new service offered by the council.

Twin sisters Mary and Jane Phillips, who live together in the South London borough, contacted Veolia in May after a change to their containers left the pair unable to identify their bins. The new service, introduced in April, has seen separate weekly food waste collections introduced and capacity for recycling collections increased, meaning residents now have two full-size wheelie bins, one brown, one green.

Visually-impaired sisters helped to recycle by adapted wheelie bins
Mary and Jane with their new bins
The French-owned multinational recycling and waste company, which manages the council’s collections, sent out recycling advisors to come up with a simple solution to the sisters’ problem: drilling different numbers of holes in each bin.

Mary and Jane said: “We are keen recyclers and have been for many years. When the new waste and recycling service was introduced, we contacted Sutton Council to ask for more information about how to use the new containers. Two recycling advisors came and made it very practical for us to use the service. The idea with holes is great and is so much easier to use now.”

The London Borough of Sutton Council is offering to adapt any other residents’ bins in a similar manner, and a similar service has been rolled out in Bolton after a trial, which the council says received ‘excellent feedback’ and presented ‘no extra cost to the council’. In Bolton, small notches are cut into the handles to signify separate bins, a solution the council says won’t degrade due to the elements or wear and tear over time.

The sisters are now raising the issue on a local news service for visually impaired people called the Sutton Talking Newspaper and urge anyone facing similar problems to contact their local council.