People power wins the day for Dacorum

The commitment of Dacorum Borough Council's waste services team has not only tripled recycling rates, but earnt them a top award for their efforts

A recycling rate that has more than tripled, tough clampdowns on illegal waste carriers and a ISO14001 accredited waste transfer station are just some of the achievements which have won Dacorum Borough Council a top accolade.

Last month, Dacorum's waste services unit won 'Best Service Team 2006' for recycling and refuse management at an awards ceremony held by the Association for Public Service Excellence in London. Dacorum's team was shortlisted against five other councils - three of which held Beacon Status for waste and recycling - but impressed the judges with a series of ground-breaking initiatives which have delivered striking results.

These include the introduction of alternate weekly collections which have seen recycling rates increase from 12% (2003-4) to 39% (2005-6). AWCs were first piloted in 2002 before being rolled out across the borough in August 2005.

According to Isabel Edgar, assistant waste information officer at Dacorum's waste development unit, AWCs serve 98% of residents across 48,000 households in Hertfordshire. She adds that since the introduction of kerbside glass recycling, Dacorum's recycling rate has risen to 45% for the first quarter of 2006-7 - well ahead of its statutory target which is 30%.

Dacorum is one of the few authorities which has kept its waste collection service in-house, enabling council tax rates to remain stable.

"Currently the amount of council tax that gets allocated to the waste collection service is £1 a week, and there has not been any increase in this amount since the introduction of the AWC. The collection service that Dacorum operates is actually the cheapest and offers the best value in the county of Hertfordshire," says Edgar.

Another scheme that the waste services team has pioneered is Operation Safe and Clean - a high profile partnership between Herts Police, Herts Fire & Rescue, the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and council services to identify and eliminate everyday eyesores that blight the local environment. On-going since 2003, this operation has resulted in a 63% decrease in untaxed vehicles, a 28% decrease in abandoned vehicles, and a 24% decrease in total crimes.

Crime clampdown
Illegal waste carriers have also been targeted through Operation Tip Stop - a stop and check exercise with Traffic Police and the Vehicles Operating Services Agency (VOSA) to identify illegal waste carriers that potentially fly tip their waste. Set up last year, so far 47 waste carriers have been stopped for correct documentation and 36 fixed penalty warnings issued.

Another example of in-house excellence is Dacorum's waste transfer station which is operated by the waste services unit. Edgar believes it is the first in the country to be awarded the environmental standard ISO14001.

Residents are also encouraged to take pride and ownership of their neighbourhood through campaigns like 'Keep Dacorum Tidy' which features school competitions and interactive roadshows. This has lead to an 11% decrease in the land found to have an unsatisfactory level of cleanliness (BVPI 199).

Dacorum aims now to build on its success through close partnership working. It is perhaps only fitting that the last word goes to one of the team's frontline members, recycling driver Steve Bavington: "I'm really pleased that we've won this award because it's a reward for all the hard work the guys on refuse and recycling have put in over the past few years. It hasn't been easy, but it makes it worthwhile to be recognised for our efforts."

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