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Biffa overhauls collections in Kent

Late last year, Biffa was awarded an £86 million 10-year contract by the Mid Kent Joint Waste Partnership, comprising Ashford, Maidstone and Swale Borough Councils. It sought to cut waste going for disposal, improve recycling performance, and save over £1 million annually over the contract’s term.

Minds have collectively been focused on how to effectively implement alternate week collections of residual waste and of commingled dry recyclables from wheeled bins, weekly food waste collections, and an optional, chargeable garden waste collection service.

Ashford, currently bottom of Defra’s recycling league tables with a rate of 14%, faces the biggest service change in July when it changes its current weekly collections of residual waste sacks and basic range of dry recyclables in kerbside boxes. Its new service will include WEEE and textile collections alongside the alternate week collections of residual waste and recycling. Once established, the service should help Ashford’s residents achieve, and exceed, a 50% recycling, reuse and composting rate.

Maidstone’s new service roll-out in August will see glass added to the existing recycling service, as well as introducing one-pass collections, so two-compartment vehicles will collect residual and food waste one week and dry recyclables and food waste the next. It will have also the same innovative kerbside collection of WEEE and textiles. A 25% increase in dry recyclable tonnages is forecast.

Swale already operates alternate week collection of residual waste and dry recyclables, with a fee-based garden service. New from December 2013 will be fully commingled dry recyclable collections incorporating glass, as well WEEE and textiles collections. Food waste collections will commence in April 2014.

Street cleansing in Ashford and Swale will change from input to output-based specification, shifting the emphasis from a frequency-based to a needs-based measure.

The planning process included a visit to top-performing Biffa-serviced councils, Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire, as well as sharing mission-critical council data.

GIS data has been crunched to realign routes and rounds for maximum operational efficiency and productivity, and IT support systems were redesigned to provide effective real-time delivery of operational performance information.

The partnership board has closely assessed bin requirements. Bin specifications and quantities were finalised, factoring in delivery and storage needs as well as household distribution plans, while tenders for some new vehicles and bins have been processed and reviewed.

Joint teams have been working on branding and local communications plans, while HR processes have been overhauled, new staff recruited, and health and safety induction and operational training agreed.

The Ashford contract began on 1 April and as the main new services commence in July, in the interim the impending changes will be introduced to residents through road shows and parish meetings, supported by detailed guides and collection calendars ahead of delivery of new bins.

Nigel Jones, Biffa municipal mobilisation manager

Phil Bond, street scene and open spaces manager at Ashford Borough Council:

“Change, whether minor or major, is often unsettling, however through detailed discussions with Biffa and our partners in Maidstone and Swale, we are focusing on ensuring that we make the right changes to achieve our long-term goals of diverting more waste from disposal and reducing service costs across the three boroughs. There have literally been hundreds of discussions and decisions about a myriad of separate elements to the contract and this work will help us greatly as we introduce the changes. Much remains to be done, and the countdown has begun.”

Pete Dickson, Biffa municipal development director:

“I’m very pleased that Biffa has been an active, rather than passive, participant in the service planning and development process. The councils have listened carefully to our opinions and recommendations, which are based on solid experience of designing and implementing change with other authorities. Much has been achieved and there’s still much to do. The devil is in the detail.”

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