Don’t fall foul of flats, just house the right bin

There is plenty of potential to improve domestic recycling rates in areas of high density housing if you install the correct infrastructure, as a new report points out.

There is considerable potential for improving recycling in high rise buildings across London according to a recent report from bin manufacturer Taylor, which revealed an an increased recycling rate of 141% in one London borough using the company’s Taylor Node mini recycling centres and Street housing units.

The report ‘Capital gains from recycling’, is based on research conducted by LRS consultancy provides a roadmap for London borough councils to unlock the potential of high rise and multi-occupancy dwellings, providing evidence that these dwellings are an untapped source for improving domestic recycling rates across the capital – and indeed any other areas in the UK where high density housing is prevalent.

The report summarises research conducted across three months, from June to August, across three London boroughs: Lambeth, Hackney and Westminster. Over the seven-week trial period, a total of 17.1 tonnes of recyclate were collected, equating to the diversion of 16.7 tonnes of CO2 from landfill. In Lambeth, three test sites were chosen and these provided a combined collection total of mixed recyclables of 10.3 tonnes, with an average household performance of 6.1kg/hh/wk. This represents an increase of 141% against the benchmark WRAP guidance level of 2.54kg/hh/wk.

Putting in a performance

The Hackney site also performed well above average WRAP levels. Here, paper was collected in a separate bin from plastic bottles, cans and glass bottles. WRAP’s flats recycling guidance indicates that for partially separated materials, an average of 2.51kg/hh/wk can be expected to be generated. Using this benchmark, the Hackney site returned a considerable 19% increase in recycling above the anticipated WRAP guidance levels.

In Westminster, a total of 5.5 tonnes of mixed recyclables were collected from two sites. Results from these sites revealed a substantial increase in recycling levels of 13.9% – this figure based upon benchmarking data provided by the council. Importantly, a large number of residents commented during the trials that they liked the visual appearance of the Node mini recycling centres and Street housing units, and that the Taylor containers assisted with clearly communicating what could and could not be recycled. A total of 49 user surveys were conducted across the three trial sites. The surveys quizzed users in three key categories – the look of the units, their ease of use, and the effect the containers had on changing recycling behaviour.

Looking good

As regards the look of the node and street containers, users commented that the bins looked more professional, tidier, and that they didn’t overflow whereas the previous ones did. In terms of ease of use, users highlighted that the labels on the new bins made it clearer to know what to recycle, and that no lids needed to be lifted so this prevented people from being lazy and leaving their recycling outside.

When it came to behavioural change, one resident said that they now spent more time separating out the different materials as they realised that certain items could not be put in the bins: “The design makes you stop and think about what you can put in”. Steve Ciuffini, UK sales manager for Taylor, comments: “We are not surprised by these results, they build upon – and corroborate – the results of previous research that we published in Jan 2010.

“Our previous trial was conducted in the North Lanarkshire area of Scotland into recycling rates for multi-occupancy high rise buildings using our Node mini recycling centres sited in public spaces. The results were excellent – 93% of the residents stating that they recycled more because the node facilities were easy to use, highly visible and on their doorstep.”

London was selected for the trial as it is the UK capital for high density housing with some boroughs having occupancy figures as high as 50% for high rise dwellings, against the UK average of 20%. In addition, historically, London has a poor record for recycling. This is due to many factors, including poorly designed waste and recycling infrastructure, with bin stores out of sight in vulnerable positions, residents not wanting unsightly bins in public places – but still wanting ease of access, and existing methods of collection.

The Taylor Node and Street units are aesthetically designed containers which allow easy access to recycling facilities near the entrance to a property, and enhance place shaping, whilst able to be emptied via existing infrastructure.

· A free copy of the report can be downloaded from

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