Efficient and effective waste and recycling for flats

Food waste, Cardboard and mixed dry recycling bins with clear signage and lockable lids

Nigel Deacon metroSTOR co-founder and National Account Director has been developing innovative external containment solutions for waste and recycling within communal and streetscene environments since 2013. Below he shares his insights on the recent LARAC conference he attended.

I was privileged to participate in a flats recycling workshop at the LARAC conference last week and it was interesting to hear first from Alison Sollis of Tonbridge & Malling BC on how they increased recycling from blocks of purpose-built flats from 11% to 23% by changing from a weekly refuse collection to alternate fortnightly collections with additional bins for cardboard and mixed dry recyclables, a communications campaign using leaflets, posters and great graphics on the bin stations and a clear tagging, removal and recharging policy for contamination. 

These simple and relatively low-cost measures seemed to work well in what was acknowledged to be a fairly leafy Kent Borough, so it was interesting to get more detail from Liz Horsfield of ReLondon on their recent Flats Recycling 2.0 Project in a rather different environment – five Council estates in Lambeth. This involved a more significant range of motivation/knowledge/ease interventions, including closing chutes, co-locating new bins with locked lids for refuse and mixed dry recyclables, WEEE bins, food waste housings, textile collections and a range of disruptive communications to make residents stop and think.

Contaminated waste and recycling in poor bin store area

After detailed waste composition analysis they found that they had increased recycling from 11% to 27% which I thought was good, but couldn’t help asking myself, so where exactly do we go from here then? I realised that the clue to this probably lay in their conclusion that where residents already recycled reasonably well they succeeded in persuading them to improve further, but where recycling was previously poor it didn’t improve much due to deeper underlying issues such as poor bin store design or location.

Now this is something that the metroSTOR team are really passionate about. With most social housing blocks having been designed in an age 60+ years ago when life was very different to what it is now, their bin stores are generally woefully inadequate, rarely having enough space for the bins required and typically being dark, unpleasant spaces that no one wants to go in unless they’re up to no good. Consequently they’re almost always fly-tipped and the recycling bins contaminated, which is clearly no good for anyone.

SBR Recycling Bin Enclosure
Investing in modern waste and recycling hubs can dramatically increase recycling.

Investing in waste and recycling hubs fit for the modern day is a massive win/win/win for residents, landlords and the environment alike, delivering tangible improvement to resident safety and the amenities they interact with on a daily basis while dramatically increasing recycling and lowering maintenance and caretaking costs. Often the original bin store location needs changing to encourage participation and eliminate ASB, and almost without exception the design needs developing to avoid the need for users to open doors and lift lids.

So by lifting the lower-performing estates as well, clients tell me that we start to see some much bigger gains in the overall recycling rates. They find it difficult to measure individual sites accurately, of course, so in November we launch our very own data collection team, making visual checks for contamination and actually measuring the weight of material in each bin prior to collection. So watch this space, we’ll be reporting to you from Hounslow on this very early in the New Year!

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