West Sussex Council to improve recycling in flats

West Sussex County Council have announced plans to give further assistance to residents living in flats or shared houses.

The authority is working in partnership with district and borough councils in a bid to make recycling easier and more straightforward for approximately 8,000 communal living spaces, tackling the historic difficulties in improving recycling rates in these areas.

Within the next 6 weeks, information packs will be sent out to residents in Arun, Chichester, Mid Sussex, Adur and Worthing. A free reusable bag will be included in an effort to encourage higher levels of recycling.

This approach was piloted back in 2016 and improved recycling rates by 94 per cent, through a multifaceted programme which saw new bins and improved signage introduced in 1,136 households. The results of this pilot saw the West Sussex Waste Partnership (the five waste collection authorities in the region) take home the award for Best Communications Campaign of the Year at the 2017 LARAC Awards, the celebration of the year’s best performers in council recycling hosted by the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee.

Deborah Urquhart, West Sussex County Council Cabinet Member for Environment, commented: “Following on from the award-winning houses of multiple occupancy recycling project in 2016, we’ve seen a big improvement in recycling quality and rates by the flats and shared houses that were involved. With such an improvement it makes perfect sense for us to roll this out to more flats and shared households across the county so that more people can boost their recycling.

“The see-through recycling bins and updated recycling information will help to improve how much waste is recycled by individuals and will ultimately help us to reach our target of 50 per cent of all household waste being recycled by 2020.”

Low recycling rates from communal buildings is a common problem across the UK, especially in high density areas, owing to the lack of space available inside the flats or on the doorstep. A report published late last year by the London Assembly’s Environment Committee found that the recycling rate in London flats would have to increase by 40 per cent in order to reach the Mayor of London’s target of 65 per cent recycling by 2030.

London’s average recycling rate currently sits at around 33 per cent, despite increased kerbside recycling services, concerted communications campaigns and improvements in waste management technology. Recycling rates in flats were reported as being a significant issue.

Solutions to the problem

A 2016 council report for Barnet, London’s most populous borough, found that despite making up around 30 per cent of households in the borough, the area’s 44,000 flats only contributed one per cent of Barnet’s recycling rate. The council predicted that by 2030, over 36 per cent of households in the borough will be found in blocks of flats. As a result, the council announced plans to expand its mixed recycling service to all flats, as well as trialling food waste collections. Removing residual waste chutes within blocks of flats has also been considered as a way of promoting recycling.

A number of initiatives have been launched across the UK in the last few years, mostly focusing on educating residents and simplifying processes wherever possible.

In March last year a ‘Flats Taskforce’ was launched by the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB) with the aim of helping people living in blocks of flats to recycle more using bespoke interventions. The organisation, which works with London’s borough councils to promote waste prevention and recycling through a range of programmes, said it would invest £1 million in the taskforce, with work starting this summer. Initiatives designed by the programme are seeking to improve access to waste services provided to flats across the capital, as well as residents’ awareness of them.

Manchester City Council has also begun to target residents in flats, committing £1.8 million in May this year to provide more recycling bins, shrink the size of general waste bins and cut back on collections of residual waste at some apartments in the city.

Pilots conducted by the City of Edinburgh Council in 2016 to improve recycling in flats resulted in a 300 per cent increase in the amount of glass collected, from an average of 1.16 tonnes per fortnight to 3.69 tonnes. The two pilots in Edinburgh were designed to increase recycling performance in 2,200 flatted tenements in the Hillside and Bellevue areas; existing separate paper and packaging banks were converted to accept mixed recycling, and communal glass banks were added ‘where possible’.

Edinburgh Council’s Environment Convener, Councillor Lesley Hinds, commented: “It makes absolute sense that we also focus efforts on simplifying recycling for those living in flatted and tenemental properties too, and these results demonstrate that there’s lots that can be done.”

Further information regarding best recycling practice can be found at the Recycle for West Sussex website.