Doctor on call: going direct to the doorstep

Recycling must be accessible to everyone if waste policies are going to be taken seriously. One waste contractor has taken a proactive approach by sending out a waste doctor to boost recycling in parts of London

Pressure is on local authorities to increase recycling rates. Across boroughs and counties, waste teams are working hard to educate residents, businesses and other organisations to manage their day-to-day waste more effectively and sort out their food waste from cardboard, from plastics, tins and bottles.

Unfortunately, it has been well reported that the different approaches to recycling are confusing for residents. Despite the best efforts of councils and their contractors to make it as simple as possible it is never a straightforward process – leaflets are lost, messages misunderstood and collections missed.

Everyone needs to be educated and motivated to take responsibility for their waste. But for those living in low, medium and high rise properties, it is not just what to recycle that is a problem – it is how it is done as well. If councils are to attain their targets and meet the demand for recycling then they must make waste management and recycling easy to sort out. However, if you are living away from the kerbside this immediately poses a problem.

There are some clear inequalities experienced between the collection of recyclate materials from kerbside properties, and those provided for low, medium and high rise. Traditionally in order for residents living in this type of dwelling to participate in recycling waste, they have been expected to place waste in receptacles quite some distance from their door step.

Reaching out to turn things around

This is a disincentive – participation rates are low and waste that could be recycled are placed into landfill waste streams leading to issues with blocked chutes and overflowing paladin bins that in turn produce litter around estates and a food source for vermin. To get round this problem it is important to reach out to the residents directly. Connaught Environmental has trialled two schemes in London – in the Royal Borough of Kingston and in Clapham Park,†where it has taken a very direct approach.

Greg Skrimshire, business development manager for Connaught Environmental, explains: “To make recycling a good deal easier, we set up a bespoke service to collect the recycling materials from the doorstep of flats, but to make sure residents knew what to put out we instigated a waste doctor, who visited individual homes to educate, inform and provide simpler methods.”

The waste doctor is an education process. It works like this – throughout the week the team knocks on doors and talks to residents about how they manage their domestic waste and recycling. Where residents are not recycling or placing the wrong items in sacks, the team will actively try to communicate with them at the time of collection in order to provide them with guidance on how, when and what to recycle.

“We realised that the waste service has to reach out to every tenant, resident and homeowner. Too often, the traditional bin man has given way to waste operatives that no longer engage with the community. Our solution was to work with the community in providing an effective solution,” explains Skrimshire.

The Connaught waste collection model breaks down into four steps. First, the resident places commingled recyclate (plastics, paper and metals) and glass separately into orange recycling sacks. The sacks are then placed outside of their front door on a pre-designated day of the week when collection is due to be carried out at their address. Residents will have received promotional material – including leaflets and fridge magnets – detailing what day of the week sacks will be collected.

The team will then collect the orange sacks on the designated day and place them in a 3.5 tonne collection vehicle for transportation to a waste transfer station located for distribution into recycling streams. Lastly, the total number of sacks collected at each location is entered onto the teams PDA to assist in providing statistical analysis and provide the foundation for the keystone to the scheme, being following up with processes of education by the waste doctor.

Positive outcomes

“The scheme was a great success. We have removed around 1,850 bags a week from the doorsteps of 1,966 properties in Clapham,” says Skrimshire. “The borough has seen participation rates in excess of 90%, and since the start of the project levels of collection have increased by over 450%.”

In Kingston it was a similar story, he adds: “Participation rates reached around 70% and we collected about 988 sacks of co-mingled recyclate and 222 sacks of glass every week. This adds up to around two tonnes of waste per week being redirected away from landfill and into recycling streams.”

This kind of approach gets results and builds confidence in the community that the issue of waste is being taken seriously. It educates the residents and helps achieve recycling targets. But it also means a return to the traditional values of the dustman engaging with the tenants.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie