Getting HWRC communications right

21 May 2020

With a plethora of guidance available to help local authorities re-open their Household Waste Recycling Centres, Senior Consultant Laura Snoulton identifies the key communications areas to help councils ensure a smooth transition when re-opening.

Local authorities in England have started to re-open at least some of their Household Waste Recycling Centres following lockdown restrictions easing last week. Northern Ireland and Wales are due to re-open sites in late May and then Scotland following suit by early June. There is a lot to consider when re-opening and the guidance available to help councils do so safely has been flowing thick and fast from Government, from national local authority advisory bodies and from individual councils. But with so much advice available, what are the key communications considerations to ensure a smooth transition in re-opening HWRCs? We have produced a checklist of six key areas local authorities should consider.

Discuss and agree a comprehensive communications strategy for managing the HWRC re-openings

Communications and Waste teams should work together. Consider:

  • What are the key messages?
  • What methods of communication are available (on and offsite)?
  • How frequently should these be utilised?

Messages should be clear and consistent in all communications:

  • Internal communications (with members, contractors, collection authorities – if two-tier, – customer contact centre staff, operational staff and back office staff); and
  • External communications (with residents, town and parish councils, community groups, local media, the police).

Work with neighbouring local authorities – ensure key messages are consistent.

Keep the strategy under review – ensure this is done regularly and the strategy updated as necessary.

Ensure the key messages are simplified

  • Clearly identify what an ‘essential’ trip to the HWRC is and provide examples where possible.
  • Clearly set out how residents can access which sites and when.
  • Ensure that residents know what to expect on site when they arrive.
  • Remind residents of standard procedures that should be maintained, such as I.D. requirements, waste separation and vehicle use.
  • Use pictorial iconography to support the messages where possible. 

Manage expectations

Some English local authorities are reporting queuing times of over two hours at the HWRCs and some have had to temporarily close sites due to the amount of traffic on the highway.

Online communications should be very clear:

  • Set out what the limitations and restrictions on site are.
  • Reiterate the requirements and expectations from both residents and site staff.
  • Provide regular traffic updates (where a booking system isn’t used).
  • Outline the new site arrangements and how many cars are allowed on site at any time.

Where possible, have marshals in place to:

  • Check road safety.
  • Provide updates to queuing cars.
  • Check the waste going into site, including waste separation.
  • Advise on general waste and recycling matters, observing social distancing rules and applying appropriate PPE, of course.

Write a comprehensive list of Frequently Asked Questions

  • Ensure they are written using plain language.
  • Make them easy for residents to find on the council website (linking from the homepage, for example).
  • Include FAQs in customer contact centre scripting.
  • Where possible, produce a consolidated FAQ list for local media dissemination.

Don’t just rely on online media channels

  • Many residents rely on local news channels and word of mouth to find out the latest information. Be proactive in engagement with local media, such as radio, TV, and print.
  • Early engagement is critical in reaching a wider audience, reducing confusion and minimising non-essential HWRC visits.

Remember the other waste services available

Provide advice – on how to store waste safely at home.

Ensure other methods of managing waste are cross referenced in all communications as alternatives to visiting the HWRCs i.e.:

  • Bulky household waste services; and
  • Kerbside garden waste collection services (where these are operating).

If you have any feedback or want to discuss any challenges you’re having with communications around any aspect of your recycling and waste collections, please do get in touch.