Optimising kerbside collection of BMW

The Organic Resource Agency has completed a five-year study to assess the effectiveness of a Kent council's alternate week kerbside collection service. Anna Bright outlines the results

The Organic Resource Agency (ORA) has completed a five-year study with Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council (TMBC) to assess the performance of its alternate week collection service along with use of best practice principles in implementing the service.

The alternate week collection (AWC) service involves collection of residual waste in week one, dry recyclables and co-mingled garden and card waste in week two. AWC was first introduced as a pilot to 1,000 properties. After successful evaluation of the pilot, AWC was expanded to 18,000 properties. By the end of 2006, 30,000 properties will have AWC.

To quantify the effect of AWC, ORA carried out four waste audits before and after its implementation. The results demonstrated that in AWC areas:

  • residual waste has decreased by 34%
  • total residual, compostable and recyclable arisings increased by only 1.75% per year
  • recycling and composting performance is 51.8%
  • the capture rate for garden waste is 56%

ORA also carried out a review of best practice – 62 applicable principles of best practice were identified, and TMBC were found to have addressed 59 of these. TMBC used the principles of the best practicable environmental option (BPEO) when planning for collection services and concluded that AWC would offer the greatest revenue savings, least environmental impact, and best results for landfill diversion.

Proximity principle

Best practice should also include consideration of the proximity principle – TMBC applied this when considering treatment options. Initially it was deemed that local on-farm composting was the preferred treatment option with the end product being used on the farm. With the advent of the animal by-products regulations, TMBC now plans to provide an in-vessel composting facility by the end of 2006.

Service success is dependent on good communication with the public and key stakeholders, and TMBC uses a variety of communication methods in different formats and languages. Local media are also invited to discuss the service as a way of pre-empting adverse publicity, answering questions and providing information.

TMBC has branded literature for the organic waste collection with images showing the waste that can be collected. The council also publishes bi-annual newsletters to invite comment and provide feedback to residents.

Health and safety is also a key issue. When considering AWC, TMBC suspected that there might be an issue regarding generation of particulate matter from loose garden waste. The council requested an independent review and risk assessment which concluded that there was no significant risk and TMBC took no further action.

A procedure specific to the collection of garden waste is contamination – this can result in whole vehicle loads being rejected for composting and having to be treated at landfill sites. TMBC instructs collection crews to inspect bin contents for contamination.

If a small amount is present, then the bin is emptied, and the contaminating material is left with an explanatory note. If there is a high degree of contamination or it is hard to remove, the bin is left and information provided.

Lastly, in line with best practice to monitor scheme success against pre-defined performance objectives and identify areas for improvement, TMBC monitors services for diversion and capture rates, and services are assessed against financial, environmental, operational criteria.

A copy of ORA’s report can be found at www.o-r-a.co.uk. The project was funded by Waste Recycling Environmental (WREN) via the landfill tax credit scheme.

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