Resource Futures undertook a research project on behalf of WRAP to understand the composition of bulky waste in order to identify the barriers and opportunities for the re-use of bulky items across the UK. The research recorded all bulky waste, including WRAP’s priority materials of WEEE, textiles and furniture, disposed of via local authority kerbside Bulky Waste Collections (BWCs) and at Household Waste and Recycling Centres (HWRCs).
Following on from the bedding in of recycling collection of smaller household items, bulky waste had become a priority material stream for WRAP. Prior to our work, there was a lack of primary data gathering and research into how much bulky waste is produced. Without this data, it was impracticable to estimate how much was reusable. Furthermore, this information was needed to provide a baseline from which to model and forecast the process for increasing reuse of bulky waste.
We used a variety of methods to gather the primary data looking at bulky waste arisings at both HWRCs and from the kerbside. Our first step was to select 11 local authorities who were broadly representative - rural, urban and suburban. Following that we rolled out our survey activities with temporary staff on site for one week at 14 HWRCs. The teams recorded the items brought in and talked to site users to find out type and quality of item and whether is worked or not according to the resident. Afterwards, the team visually assess the item to decide its reusability - could it be reused straightaway, did it need a little repair or was it beyond salvage for re-use. At the kerbside, we collected primary data when out with the collections crews and when the bulky waste was tipped at the HWRC site with assessment taken on quality and reusability. Supporting this was data received from the waste collection authorities call centres logs. Comparison was made on number of collections as opposed to time taken to collect (smaller authorities took longer to collect the same amount of material when compared to larger councils). The authorities had broadly similar number of records, logging what and weight to provide consistent data however quality of items was not assessed due to desk based nature of this part of the research.
We were able to answer two questions i.e. what are levels of bulky waste and what percentage was able to be reused:
To probe the findings further, we used ACORN data to see if there difference in bulky waste quality had any relationship with demographics.
The benefits of the work were multiple: