Social value – defined as publicly and privately run waste services that could be delivered by the third sector, community and voluntary organisations – is forecast to rocket as service provision shifts increasingly into this market.

The main drivers behind this trend are local authority efficiency savings and new legislation which requires councils to consider social value at the point where services are commissioned and procured.

New research by SITA UK points to the fact that third sector organisations, often working in partnership with the private sector, could increase their contract value share in local authority waste collection contracts under the provisions of the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012.

The Creating Social Value report states that an increase from the current 0.25% share to a third sector average 2% share across all public services could deliver an additional £26m in social value annually.

If a greater proportion of this increase in contract value share is assigned to reuse projects, which make up the largest proportion of third sector provision, this additional annual social value could reach £54m.

The potential impact of the Public Services Act is strong, according to the study – not just in local authority waste and recycling services, but more broadly across public services.

“For local authority waste managers, it could have far reaching effects on the way they commission and procure services, as the Act requires councils to demonstrate that social value has been considered in procurement and, if not, there are opportunities for community challenge,” the report states.

It adds that “consensus-based and clear guidance” will be critical in establishing social value thinking and commissioning within waste authority departments, as it will be necessary to measure and demonstrate how such value has been achieved.

The document also gives examples of ways in which the industry can add social value to its activities. On the waste collection front, these include increasing community participation through reward schemes and engaging with the third sector in niche areas.

Reuse should also be promoted more through support for local refurbishment businesses, community swap shops, and partnership working with socially excluded or marginalised communities.

Energy-from-waste also has a role to play if the outputs can be tapped into to provide low-cost heating for community and domestic properties.

Maxine Perella

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