BAN Waste Select Committee evidence

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Phase 1 Day 2 2001-09-26 Liz Morrish (Waste and Recycling Manager, Environ, Leicestershire)

written evidence submitted in advance

The waste and recycling team at Environ manages more than ten projects at the current time, working with individuals, businesses, the voluntary sector and local government to encourage more sustainable waste management practices. All our work aims to encourage people to take practical action to improve the environment. The following case studies are some examples of this work.

Community Recycling Centres

Environ manages two Community Recycling Centres on behalf of Leicester City Council. We were awarded a contract three years ago to manage and transform two civic amenity sites into innovative Community Recycling Centres. We want to change the image of these facilities, from the traditional tip or dump, where everything is disposed of, into centres where as much waste as possible is recycled or reused. The centres are open seven days a week for individuals to recycle or dispose of household waste. The sites currently take in 15,000 to 20,000 tonnes of waste per annum, a significant proportion of Leicester's household waste. When we were awarded the contract the recycling rate was approximately 14% and over the past few years we have managed to increase this up to 35%. This increase has been achieved through a variety of methods. We have expanded the range of waste materials accepted for recycling, so there is now facilities to collect green waste for composting, building rubble, wood, drinks cans and paint. We have introduced more information to assist individuals to recycle their waste rather than dispose of it. This includes new signs stating what can and cannot be recycled, a new information leaflet and significant coverage by the local media. We have employed new members of staff to take a more proactive and educational role, encouraging and assisting people to recycle their waste. Over the next year we hope to increase the recycling rate further, to significantly reduce the amount of waste disposed of to landfill. We hope the facilities in Leicester are examples of good practice, showing what it is possible to achieve with recycling at civic amenity sites.

Research into effective kerbside recycling

Environ has been fortunate to receive Landfill Tax Credit Scheme from Sita Environmental Trust to carry out research into effective kerbside recycling. The majority of local authorities are now providing some form of kerbside recycling service for residents, or at least planning to introduce such a service in the near future. This recognises that some form of kerbside recycling service is needed as part of an overall waste management strategy in order to achieve government recycling targets. Environ has carried out two pieces of research into kerbside recycling.

The first was in partnership with Leicester City Council, who already operated a city wide service through a weekly green bag collection. This service was working quite well but there was room for improvement. This research looked at how to promote a kerbside recycling service effectively to residents, in order to increase participation and therefore increase recycling rates. Various methods were trialled and the conclusion was that promotion does work and whatever form of promotional work is undertaken there will be a positive impact on participation levels. The most effective form of promotion is to provide households with an immediate means of participation, in the case of Leicester City's scheme by giving households a supply of green bags to put their dry recyclables in. The research also showed that promotion has an immediate effect, but that the impact will gradually reduce over time. Operators of kerbside recycling services must realise that promotion is needed on a regular basis, if participation and recycling rates are to be sustained over a period of time.

The second piece of research was in partnership with Oadby and Wigston Borough Council, one of Leicestershire's district councils. This research looked at the impact of introducing a weekly kerbside recycling scheme using collection boxes, in comparison to a fortnightly collection using bags. The research showed that a weekly collection, rather than fortnightly, has a positive impact on participation. This is presumed to be because a weekly service becomes more of a habit, as households are used to putting out waste for disposal on a weekly basis. So if recyclables can be put out at the same time it is more likely to become a habit. More people seemed to participate in the scheme when provided with a collection box rather than bags. Reasons for this include that there is always the means to participate with a box, as a supply of bags can run out. Using boxes also enables the glass fraction of the household waste stream to be collected, which helps to achieve a much higher diversion rate.

Lessons to learn from this research is that continual promotion is needed of recycling services if recycling rates are to be sustained. It is not sufficient to simply promote a service when it is launched, resources must be identified and committed to enable regular promotion to take place. Also a poor quality service will result in individuals opting out of a service, for example if recyclables are not collected as promised. It is then difficult to encourage these people to start recycling again. Services must be simple and convenient for households to use, with accessible and easy to understand information.

Education and promotion

Environ runs several educational and promotional campaigns/initiatives on waste and recycling issues. An example is a club to promote home composting called Leicestershire Rotters. This is funded by Leicestershire County Council and was set up last year to help and encourage people to compost at home. We felt that too often home compost bins are sold, without the provision of any real help and advice on how to actually start composting and do it successfully. Most people will try home composting for a while and then give up when it doesn't seem to have worked. Leicestershire Rotters is free to join and as a member you receive free regular newsletters, with tips and advice, access to a free helpline by phone or email and special promotions. We also run workshops on home composting and tours of composting facilities. This year we are planning to launch a Leicestershire Rotters website and a mobile display, to travel round the county to a variety of locations to provide information and encourage people to compost at home successfully.

Other work

Environ runs many other waste and recycling projects, including computer recycling and refurbishment, wood recycling, a scheme to help individuals, schools and community groups raise money through recycling, educational work with schools including a recycling roadshow travelling round Leicestershire, research into various waste management options and a Community Re>Paint scheme to collect surplus and left over paint from households and then redistributing this to community and voluntary groups to be reused.