World leader in waste management: containers and related services.
The future of residential waste?
An access-controlled bin shelter trial in Slough
Contamination of recycled material bins is proving a real headache for local authorities. Currently, a large number of non-recyclable items – such as dirty nappies or electronic equipment – are often found mixed in with materials for recycling, causing the recycling plant to reject it and the load to be re-routed as residual waste. Not only is this bad for the environment, but it also increases costs for local authorities.
Whilst on the topic of waste contamination, fly-tipping (illegal deposit of any waste onto land that does not have a licence to accept it) of non-recyclable goods is also on the increase and can be a problem in unsecured bin storage areas. In fact, the UK’s Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has revealed that councils across England reported 936,090 cases of fly-tipping of all types in 2015/2016. This was up 4% on the previous year and clearing up the fly-tipped rubbish cost councils £49.8m.
As a result, councils are increasingly seeking new ways to work with local residents to encourage more effective waste management practices.
Resolving the contamination issue
Plastic Omnium’s Environment Division is a world-leading supplier of products and services for waste management. The company has many years’ experience of helping local authorities reach their recycling objectives by developing reliable solutions suitable for all types of urban and suburban environment. Most visible are the wheeled and underground containers, but Plastic Omnium also provides a full range of equipment, maintenance and washing services, alongside integrated hardware systems and software solutions which designed to optimise the collection process.
In 2015, Plastic Omnium Urban Systems worked in partnership – in the first trial of its kind in the UK - with Ferrovial Services Centre of Excellence for Cities, Amey and Slough Borough Council to install six Plastic Omnium bin shelters with access-control systems in multi-occupancy locations around the town. The aims of the trial project were to reduce contamination, increase the quality and quantity of domestic recycling and reduce the amount of material sent to landfill. Each bin shelter served multi-occupancy purpose-built flats of differing types. Three hundred households across the town took part in the project.
Each bin shelter was fitted with Plastic Omnium’s own access-control locks, and local residents were supplied with key fobs or ‘smartcards,’ allowing the shelters to be opened with access to the recycling bins. This ensured that non-residents were prevented from using the bins.
In addition, the bin shelters recorded every time a key fob was presented by a user - although not what was being recycled. The data was then sent to the borough council, Plastic Omnium and Ferrovial Services, enabling the partners to understand more about how and when the bins were being used and how local recycling trends were developing.
Research undertaken over the first few months of the trial showed a marked improvement in recycling rates. We were delighted to see that residents were enthusiastic about the project, with half claiming it helped them to recycle more. Additionally, residents also expressed satisfaction that the bin shelters could only be accessed by those authorised to do so, creating a sense of ownership. Some also said that the next generation was being taught how to be more responsible, as children learned to take out the recycling and enjoyed using the key fob/smart card for access to the bin. Furthermore, it was clear that the trial raised awareness of the need for recycling – and the need to do it properly to reduce the cost of contamination.
The trial demonstrated that sustained engagement with communities is required if progress is to be maintained, and if lethargy and falling rates of recycling are to be prevented.
Results obtained showed that the findings of similar projects, using this technology, in mainland Europe could be clearly replicated in the UK. The use of bin shelters with access control locks has been highly successful, in terms of both changing local residents’ behaviour to decrease contamination and to increase local recycling rates.