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An incentive to throw away less waste

Could ‘pay as you throw’ for commercial waste producers be the catalyst needed to drive down waste and boost recycling? MRW reports

Whilst virtually everything else in the world of waste management has changed over the last decade, the payment model used for the collection of commercial waste has hardly altered at all.

So, unlike most of Europe, which has moved over to a ‘pay as you throw’ model, the UK has been resistant to change from the established ‘flat rate per bin’ payment method.  However, there are now a growing number of waste management companies who see a number of distinct advantages to a more variable approach to pricing which is encouraging waste producers to rethink their business models. One such company is the John Lewis Partnership, who is exploring how, with the help of one of its main waste contractors, Simply Waste Solutions, to turn this concept into a reality.

According to Mike Walters, John Lewis Partnership’s manager for waste and water resource: “This could just be the catalyst to help us further reduce the amount of waste we produce whilst at the same time achieving even greater levels of recycling. There would then be a clear incentive for us to throw less and, if we become even more mindful of what we put in our bins, we could even reduce our overall operational costs.”

Pay as you throw (PAYT) has become a practical reality in an increasing number of countries in Europe, such as Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Austria and Finland, in both the residential and commercial sectors.  The UK, on the other hand, has received no such legislative driver and, until recently, had little demand for PAYT from the waste industry itself. But this situation may well change, given the numerous benefits that a variable pricing model brings, including a more transparent insight into the amount of waste being collected.

The onus would be on waste management companies with the foresight to see the mutual benefits that this radical pricing mechanism can offer customers, along with the investment in infrastructure and technology required to make it possible. Simply Waste Solutions has already made this leap and is now in dialogue with a number of its clients, including the John Lewis Partnership, to explore ways in which a PAYT system could be implemented.

Many businesses today are under more scrutiny from their customers, suppliers, partners and employees who are all keen to know what waste policy is in place, what targets have been set and whether they are being hit. Several in the retailing sector in particular have gone even further by championing positive behaviour by partners and suppliers that will help them achieve their own waste targets. The John Lewis Partnership, for example, has already achieved a 75% recycling rate and is on target to divert 95% of its operational waste from landfill by the end of this year. It also runs The Waitrose Way Awards, that celebrate its suppliers’ outstanding initiatives to enhance the sustainability of its businesses and, ultimately, the food that ends up on consumers’ plates.

But the Partnership is not content to rest on its laurels and is actively exploring ways with its partners and suppliers to help it increase recycling rates and even achieve zero waste to landfill. One of its key partners is Simply Waste Solutions, already an active participant of the Partnership’s waste steering group, where it helps shape future waste strategy through its expertise and specialist knowledge. The waste management company, based in Langley Berkshire, was also ‘Highly Commended’ in this year’s Waitrose Way awards.

Over the course of the last three years, Simply Waste has been working closely with John Lewis to help it achieve its waste targets. It has also been making great strides in providing the Partnership with robust management data. As Walters says: “As soon as you can start measuring waste you can then begin to influence and reduce it.” The data not only tells the Partnership how much waste is being collected from its stores, but also what happens to it afterwards, broken down by the amount of recyclates and even the amount of CO2 saved by diverting it away from landfill.

The growing demand for even greater levels of management data from its customers has now prompted Simply Waste to invest in new systems and technology that will provide even more transparency to those clients wanting to reach the next level of waste reduction. In August of this year, Simply Waste and Moba Mobile Automation teamed up to introduce, for the first time on commercial waste vehicles in the UK, what they called “the most sophisticated on-board weighing and bin identification solution currently available in the market place”.

Moba, a European specialist in identification systems and weighing technology for construction machinery and waste disposal vehicles, has begun implementing its vibrating-wire technology across Simply Waste’s fleet which will deliver extremely accurate weighing measurements together with immunity from interference and electronic signal processing. This technology is deemed far superior to conventional strain gauge load cells as it not only delivers improved weighing accuracy but, significantly, also means the bin lifter no longer needs to be operated at a slow speed in order to achieve a stable weighing signal.

And together with bin identification technology and integrated telematics data, Simply Waste is now able to provide customers with exact data on the time and location of the bin that was lifted, as well as its weight. It can also tell the customer the quantity of recyclables and food waste that has been lifted, if this has been segregated into separate bins.

The possibilities that this combination of technology can bring is now exciting Simply Waste’s customers and there are already a number who are thinking beyond simply better data to a point where they could be automatically billed depending on the weight of the bin. For those customers with multiple sites, such as retailers or pub chains, an average weight across all bins collected could be levied. But the transparency of such a system would bring into sharp focus those sites that are creating excessive amounts of waste or not doing enough to segregate waste that can be recycled.

Simply Waste sees its investment in such technology as transformative for its customers. Managing director James Capel, above, says: “The investment we are now making into both our vehicle fleet and back-office systems will enable our customers to transform the way they behave about waste. It will provide them a direct incentive to cut waste streams across the whole of their business because if they are able to throw less, they will pay less.”

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