Introducing recycling schemes to people living in flats or on estates is not just about social inclusion, they are essential for some authorities to meet recycling targets.
People living in flats or on estates are often ignored when kerbside programmes are developed. But research commissioned by the Waste Implementation Programme has found that residents are keen to recycle and their participation could help authorities meet targets.
The report Recycling for flats, was conducted to establish the scale and scope of recycling services for residents in flats.
Speaking at the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee Newcastle conference last month, Dave Birley, environment director of the Safe Neighbourhoods Unit, said: The practicalities are that these people need to be included in recycling schemes in order for authorities to meet recycling targets.
Recycling for flats, carried out by Waste Watch and the Safe Neighbourhood Unit, gives case studies of recycling schemes in housing estates, high-rise blocks and areas of high-density housing.
The work looked at the resources available, the funding required as well as planning, data gathering and resident involvement. Awareness raising, problems and performance measures were also monitored.
Though less than one fifth (19%) of housing stock in England comprises of flats they are found in areas of high concentration rather than evenly distributed around the country.
Out of 348 English councils 112 have more than 10,000 flats within their boundaries. Thirty-four of these councils have more than 20,000. In 49 councils flats represent 25% of houses, while in 13 councils flats represent more than 50% of the housing stock.
More blocks of flats are likely to be built in the future and this sector is not solely economically deprived, says Birley. There are many private companies that own blocks of flats that are expensive properties. High rises are relatively rare and the majority are three or four storey buildings set back from the road. One million out of 4m are flat conversions, he said.
The research has a bias towards London in 13 inner London authorities 881,000 properties, or 69%, are flats. Another area was Newcastle, where there are 98,000 flats, or 20% of the housing stock.
A number of alternative systems were found in use around the country from specific bins to collect recyclables to distributing kerbside boxes. An estate recycling centre in Lewisham uses a system of three bins for different materials mixed paper and cardboard, all glass bottles and jars and tins, cans and plastic bottles. Above the bins a sign clearly indicates which materials can be collected for recycling.
Another system has five 240 litre bins with a locking frame to ensure lids can not be lifted and materials can only be inserted into lid holes, while in Tower Hamlets 44 litre boxes were issued to residents here space is not an issue as is often perceived. Materials are loaded into woven sacks, collected on a weekly basis.
The research identified a variety of collection methods and container choices are determined by a variety of factors. There are also numerous drivers for flats recycling, including authorities needing to hit recycling targets, social inclusion and the residents demanding it. It is essential to establish the flats management and ownership as this can cause delays in implementing schemes.
And while there was a dearth of useful performance data there were a number of limitations to the data currently being collected, said Birley.
Many schemes are very new and some cannot weigh the materials separately on collection rounds. There is no data on residual waste from flats, making it impossible to calculate diversion rates or assess the overall flat waste stream. The costs of flats programmes are usually contained within overall contract prices, making it difficult to disaggregate actual costs.
In addition to assessing the services available for flats