5 ways to extract value from your waste data

17 December 2019

Our teams help local authorities and businesses across the UK to find out what items and materials they are disposing of. These representative waste composition analysis studies provide not just insight into the materials that make up our waste, but also insight into the average volume of waste per house or per premises, which sheds light on the behaviour of those using the waste and recycling systems and how fully they do so. And whilst us waste geeks always find this data interesting, we don’t always see our clients using this information to its full potential.

So, if you have valuable waste composition data, here are five ways that you can use it to its full potential:

1. Share the data with all relevant internal departments and maybe your contractor

Far too often, this data sits in a silo, never to be shared beyond the team it was initiated by. By sharing more broadly, that data can inform broader operations. If separate, for example, consider sharing with the street scene and environment teams too. You might also want to share the work within the council estates or properties teams from the point of view of improving recycling and waste infrastructure. Sharing with the executive and council members helps to communicate the challenges faced by the waste team, endeavouring to hit recycling targets and can help secure buy-in for service changes or communications budgets.

There are lots of good reasons to share this information with your contractors and depending on your relationship, a round-the-table-discussion with the figures could be a great start to help you achieve greater recycling performance, cost savings and better materials quality.

2. Work with your communications team to get messages out to residents

Evidence around environmental communications effectiveness tells us that local relevance is pivotal. Your waste compositional analysis will give you that all important, real local data that you can use to encourage positive recycling behaviours:

“In Greater Northington, we throw out the equivalent of 45 tonnes of food every day, costing families up to £30 every week!”

Normative messaging is another tool in the box for stimulating environmentally friendly behaviour. Your data will tell you what’s good as well as bad about your recycling performance so you can help all households to raise their game and to take part.

3. Use the data to inform your future waste strategy and planning

The data could have implications for your waste strategy. Whether you are reviewing now or considering forthcoming legal changes, having a baseline of your current situation is a good place to start. A number of pioneering trials across the UK have shown that reducing residual waste collections frequency and capacity can and does encourage more recycling. The trials also indicated that, with a well-rounded approach to service change and a robust communications programme, it is possible to maintain recycling quality and keep fly tipping incidents down too.

The government is continuing its consultations around the Resources and Waste strategy proposals. Key focuses for waste managers will be legislation set around the consistency of collections systems, Deposit Return Scheme for drink containers (DRS) and revised Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR). Your waste study data can be used to help you identify the impact of the legislation and how you will want to develop your future waste services.

4. Take the opportunity to think about blue-sky ideas to tackle materials which stand out in the analysis

By focusing in on the detail and isolating specific issues, you are likely to be more focused in your ideas of what the real successes and challenges are. Sometimes, it pays to opt for a blue-sky approach rather than incremental improvements. Whether it’s taking advantage of public realm to site installation art, creative waste infrastructure, radical service changes and communications campaigns or a strategic waste fleet upgrade, take time to draw on your analysis and consider more progressive approaches.

5. Plan in time to repeat the analysis to see if your interventions have had an impact

Hopefully you have made some interventions to improve on your recycling and diversion rates. If so, don’t forget to repeat the analysis to measure how impactful your intervention has been. There may not be a silver bullet to boost your recycling rate overnight, but with careful considered interventions, analysis, monitoring and a process of reflection, you stand a much better chance.

If you’re interested in finding out how your organisation could improve recycling performance or what it is unnecessarily disposing of or perhaps you want help getting the message out to your residents, customers or staff, get in touch with the Resource Futures team.