Why developers must build in waste planning

Developers of urban housing must first tackle waste management if they are to avoid future liabilities and ensure residents' quality of life, argues Tony Yates

A lack of available development space, and the need to satisfy housing development requirements, is resulting in new urban developments that are medium to high density in nature.

Historically, waste management facilities for these types of developments have not been a priority for developers even though such schemes can result in significant quantities of waste being generated on a daily basis. Yet failure to appreciate this at the initial phase can lead to a range of environmental and social problems resulting in a substantial and detrimental effect on residents’ quality of life.

To make sure that waste associated with new developments is managed in a sustainable manner, planners and developers need to give it greater consideration in the early stages of master planning. And assistance should be sought from experienced waste management professionals.

Planning authorities and developers are keen to embrace the principles of sustainable building design, and within this context meeting architectural and social needs in an energy and resource efficient manner is now seen as a prerequisite for most new urban developments. Similarly, waste management has obvious architectural, social and environmental implications and should also be considered as part of a sustainable approach to urban building design.

To ensure developers adequately address in-building waste management, most planning authorities issue design guidance on waste storage and access requirements at the planning and concept design stages of scheme development. However, this generally concentrates on space and access needs, rather than the sustainability of waste management practices and opportunities for improving recycling performance.

Specify guiding principles

One approach to ensure that waste is dealt with in a sustainable manner is to specify a number of guiding principles. These would provide the overarching framework for the development and assessment for the on-site management of waste. These might, for example, include the minimisation of environmental nuisance, vehicle movements, on-site storage of waste and waste generation. Overall it should try to ensure minimal impact on quality of life and could encourage maximum recycling and the co-management of residential and commercial waste.

Developing an accurate assessment of the amount of potential waste arising is critical. This provides the basis for developing and assessing appropriate waste management options, including the subsequent estimation of the number and type of receptacles needed and space requirements.

The amount of waste arising will depend on the type and mix of development and the nature and scale of individual land use elements. Typically a figure of 12-13 kg/apartment/week might be used to quantify the amount of waste arising from flats and apartments.

Along with total predicted amounts of waste, an estimate of waste composition is also beneficial to aid in the design and sizing of infrastructure for management of segregated recyclable and compostable materials. Phasing of the development will also need to be considered.

It is a common misconception that all local authorities collect waste in a similar manner, and offer identical services for collection of segregated materials. In reality, the services offered will vary from council to council influenced by a range of factors including historic service development, waste management targets, political will, funding availability and access to waste management infrastructure.

Councils also differ in the way in which commercial waste is managed. As most new developments comprise a mixture of residential and commercial units it is important to establish whether the council can collect commercial waste or whether the services of a private contractor will need to be retained.

Early engagement with WCAs is key

Engaging the council’s waste collection department early in the design process, to establish their requirements for management and presentation of waste, is key. The waste department will consider how best to integrate the management of waste from the new development with existing waste and recycling collection services.

So it is important to establish what the council’s recycling targets are, and what services are offered for recycling from flats and apartments. Find out whether the council collects kitchen waste, or plans to do so in the future, and whether commercial waste is collected with residential waste as well as collection frequencies.

New Wembley, for example, is a mixed development comprising residential, commercial, retail and leisure. It has approximately 4,000 multi-storey residential units with associated offices, shops and other commercial enterprises. At the outset the development company was keen to ensure that the waste management solution supported its goal of a providing a high quality sustainable development.

Following assessment of the predicted waste amounts arising and a detailed review of available options for the management of waste and recyclables, a vacuum waste collection system was identified as the most sustainable solution for the development.

As the first potential installation of its kind in the UK, it was important to achieve support from Brent Council as the method of waste and recyclables collection differed substantially from the council’s existing schemes.

Officers from the council’s waste management department were involved at an early stage in the discussions and, following liaison with the existing waste contractor, agreement was given for adoption of the waste collection scheme proposed. Of significant importance was the council’s willingness to accept the co-management of residential and commercial waste streams.

As this case study shows, this early stage approach can often promote the adoption and acceptance of waste management schemes, which differ from existing arrangements. This allows the council to plan their resources accordingly, while at the same time establishing a sustainable approach to waste management across the development.

And where the developer chooses to adopt an alternative approach then the designer’s waste management checklist (see box, above) can aid identification and development of an appropriate waste management strategy.

Dr Tony Yates is an associate at SLR Consulting

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