What’s the future for Civic Amenity sites? Sam Reeve gave the lowdown on this year’s CA site conference
Sam Reeve, Resource Futures’ CEO, opened the 2016 National Civic Amenity Site Conference with a rallying call to industry to use Civic Amenity (CA) sites to protect and improve recycling rates. His speech comes at a time when performance at CA sites is under scrutiny by local authorities and waste contractors alike as budgets continue to be stretched.
Are CA sites relevant?
The evidence suggests that CA sites are a much needed and used resource across the UK but with more to play for. In England CA sites account for 19% of household arisings. If taken away, this would reduce recycling rates by 4%. But considering CA site residual waste – if 50% of the circa 1.6 million tonnes is diverted for reuse or recycling, recycling rates would be boosted by 3.5%. WasteDataFlow for 2014-15 shows a reversal of the decline over the previous two years for England but the levels are still behind where they were in 2011-12. The Welsh are top performers and Resource Futures has been working with WRAP Cymru over the past 12 months to support Council's in improving their services and performance of the CA Network. Elsewhere the situation for Northern Ireland continues to show consistent improvement however, the picture for Scotland is less clear as no performance data has been released for over two years.
Drivers of change
So what are the drivers of change in CA site service provision and performance? There are a clutch of key drivers at hand: austerity measures, political will, the European circular economy package and ambitions of the four home nations. But we need to factor in leadership; after all, where there is a will, there is a way. Leadership is a critical influencer in how far CA sites will develop and flourish and yet this is variable across the UK. We need better targets, a focus on waste prevention and reuse, with standardisation of calculation and reporting of recycling rates to capitalise on the full potential of reuse and recycling at CA sites.
England’s determination to achieve improvement remains questionable through a lack of vision from the top. Scotland has clear ambition for the circular economy but CA sites seem to be falling down the back of the sofa despite data suggesting that they are needed to meet high recycling rates. Looking to Northern Ireland, food waste and CA sites are core to hitting 50%. But it is to Wales where we see the hard work, ambition and leadership pay off with enviable high rates of performance. The achievement in Wales is a result of collaboration between central and local government, contractors and the third sector.
There are decisions to be made. But if you play your cards right then it is possible to continue to improve. The vernacular evolution from ‘the tip’ to Civic Amenity site or Household Waste Recycling Centre shouldn’t stop; some are being referred to as Resource Reuse Centres, which is encouraging. Rumour has it that a site with an onsite reuse shop is providing a table and chairs for customers. Is the next step buying a latte while you browse the bric-a-brac section?
CA sites bring an added visual and interactive dimension to the public in terms of them becoming aware of waste and resources, and in turn, changing their behaviour. Add in the multiple community benefits of job provision, volunteering and making use of items that have value for residents; then the case for future development is strong. When considering the case for CA sites, local authorities need to take a holistic view of services to align and support their overall waste and social economy strategy, which inevitably requires good communications.
So there is much to play for. CA sites have a clear contribution to make in terms of recycling and reuse performance; and act as a powerful, informative awareness tool to incite and embed positive behaviour change.