This Year’s National Recycling Award for Best Partnership Project went to Warwickshire County Council. Andrea Lockerbie looks at why
In a landmark partnership with the third sector, Warwickshire County Council outsourced the operation of selected recycling centres to a social enterprise. Its proceeds benefit grassroots community groups through a grant-making community foundation and the initiative also delivers significant savings for the authority. The judges called the initiative “a stand-out winner”.
They said: “This is a really impressive partnership, which is a new model delivering a solution in a tough economic climate.”
Warwickshire Community and Voluntary Action (CAVA) and the Heart of England Community Foundation created Warwickshire Community Recycling (WCR) as a joint charitable enterprise which took over the management of Stockton and Wellesbourne recycling centres from the county council in April 2012. As well as providing a capital injection of £52,000 to supply and install pre-fabricated reuse shops, Warwickshire County Council supported the fledgling venture with an interest-free, 18-month pump-prime loan of £40,000.
WCR provides the staff to operate the on-site shops, assist members of the public and ensure recycling is sorted. In return, the organisation receives the recycling income to cover the costs of operating the sites with any surplus being donated to local charities through the Heart of England Community Foundation.
WCR also runs Household Waste Recycling Centre (HWRC) re-use shops at Shipston-upon-Stour and Kenilworth, and will be the reuse shop operator at a new recycling centre in North Warwickshire being jointly developed with Staffordshire County Council.
The scheme has allowed Warwickshire to make financial savings, keep its existing recycling centres open and maintain a seven-day a week service at its eight busiest sites. It has also helped increase recycling rates, while also generating funds for voluntary and community groups – at a time when funding is sparse.
Warwichshire’s review of HWRCs was initiated after budget reductions required a £900,000 saving in the next financial year to cover all nine sites and the disposal of green waste and recycling that comes from them. Under the new arrangements, the county council maintains overall control of all the sites, including provision of technical and management support. Six of Warwickshire’s nine recycling centres are operated directly by the county council, while its Nuneaton’s Judkins HWRC is being developed by a private operator in partnership with an established third sector partner as part of a 15-year provide/design/build/operate contract.
The partnership has helped the authority avoid closing any HWRCs, while saving it £900,000 in 2012/13. It has also allowed it to maintain seven-day opening at its eight busiest sites and divert over 10 tonnes of material from landfill each week via the WCR reuse shops. Turnover at the reuse shops was expected to exceed £100,000 in 2012/13 and double the following year when the fifth shop has a full year’s trading, in addition to income generated from recyclates.
The impact on the recycling rates for Stockton and Wellesbourne HWRCs has been impressive. At 74% and 76% respectively, this is 18% up on figures achieved under previous private sector operation.
“We’ve won one or two awards now and every time we win one it brings it home to us that we are doing a really good job.
“It’s an innovative way of working between the third sector and a local authority. Normally the third sector would be running just the reuse organisation but we actually do the recycling side as well.”
Wayne Gibbons, development manager, Warwickshire Community Recycling
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