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Sustaining weekly waste collections

Source: Public Sector Executive Feb/Mar 2014

Bournemouth Borough Council was highlighted as an example of best practice in recycling and weekly waste collections in guidance issued by the DCLG. The council’s strategic operations manager Larry Austin speaks to PSE.

Bournemouth Borough Council, which is among the best performing local authorities in the country on recycling, has been commended by communities secretary Eric Pickles as an example of best practice when it comes to creating and maintaining weekly waste collections.

The council is about to introduce a weekly food waste collection service based on an insert-bin model, where the outdoor food waste container can be placed inside the main waste bin.

PSE talked to Bournemouth’s strategic operations manager, Larry Austin, about how they were balancing financial pressures with the need to provide good waste management.

Bidding for Bournemouth

Bournemouth was successful with both of its bids to the government’s Weekly Collection Support Scheme; one to enhance Bournemouth’s existing scheme with a new weekly food waste collection (£7.1m), and another bid led by Bournemouth with the Dorset Waste Partnership to build a local materials recycling facility (£14.2m). The facility will process dry recyclate, and is currently in the procurement stage. In time it will also generate revenue for the council.

The food waste collection service officially launches on 3 March, with new bins being rolled out to all households in preparation for the new service. The council has developed an ‘insert’ bin, which sits inside the main residual waste container (taking up about half the space), or can be used on its next to the main bin.

Austin explained: “It’s a one-part system for the collection of residual waste and food waste at the same time by a podded vehicle.
With that design, there was a recognition that not everybody would want to use it as an insert, and actually may place it alongside the bin. So the design had to incorporate a locking lid and a handle to make sure it could be separate.

“We feel we’re giving maximum flexibility to our residents.”

Green rewards

Bournemouth has long stood out amongst the best recycling performers because it has maintained a weekly collection, while most of the other leaders on this had switched to alternate weekly and recycling collections, usually seen to boost recycling rates.

The council has some of the best performance on recycling in the country – in 2010/11 it came first out of 358 authorities in England, with 41.81% of household waste sent for recycling. It slipped in 2011/12 to 35 out of 352 authorities, on 30.07%.

Looking at the combined rate for recycling, composting and reuse, Bournemouth came in at 46 out of 352 (52.3%) in 2011/12, and 76 out of 352 (49.72%) in 2012/13 (Source: WasteDataFlow, analysis by The new food waste scheme is sure to boost the figures further.

The participation rate of residents today is at 96%. “That is really high,” Austin said, but added that performance has plateaued at this level.

“You’ve got to keep reinforcing the message. We do have, in some areas, a fairly transient population – we’re a big student town as well. People come and go and if they’re not aware of what can be recycled… you’ve got to keep reinforcing that.”

A rewards scheme will be developed over the summer, in an area where capture rates have tended to be lower. A pilot could cover around 5,000 households, Austin said, to measure the impact of uptake.

The high rates are down to a combination of good communications, a simple message, and keen residents, Austin said. “We try to work with residents, and if we have to slightly adapt that scheme to suit individual circumstances, we will do that. From our part we do everything we can, but the buy-in from residents was excellent right from the outset.”

Working together

On the partnership with Dorset, he added: “We’re looking to try to get the maximum impact and benefit not just for Bournemouth but across the wider conurbation as well.

“The efficiency agenda is not going to go away. There are always more and more challenging targets, and working closely together – whether that’s joint procurement, actual full-blown partnerships which we’ve seen in some areas, or just sharing resources where possible – is certainly the way forward.

“There are always challenges around any partnership, but the mutual benefits far outweigh the challenges.”

Looking forward

Bournemouth is committed to weekly collections of residual waste “in the short- and medium-term”, Austin said, although he conceded that “longer-term there could be further decisions to be made”.

He pointed out that savings through more efficient processing of food waste would help to contribute to the wider efficiency agenda, and sustain the collections. Looking forward, Austin said he hoped to see the county’s residual waste tonnage decreasing, as more food waste is diverted and recycling performance continues to improve.

“It’s exciting times in Bournemouth. It’s very busy times with these two projects that we’re pulling together, so it’s certainly provided a boost for our team. In these quite austere times it’s great to be rolling out two high-profile projects such as this.”

Austin is keen to see the data on the insert’s use, as well as uptake on the recycling initiative scheme. “The initial feedback we’ve been picking up has been very positive in terms of how clear the messages are. People seem to like the actual insert and think it’s quite a good idea.”


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