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Taking the bull by the horns

Bracknell Forest Borough Council is rapidly gaining a reputation for its strong and cooperation-led approach to recycling. Two years on from addressing a worrying decline in recycling rates, the council has boosted figures with plastics collections, capital investment in its bring sites and is about to introduce cardboard and composting schemes. All of this is backed up by the ambitious RE3 scheme.

RE3 is a partnership involving Bracknell Forest Borough Council, Reading Borough Council and Wokingham District Council. Its purpose is to implement proven and innovative approaches to recycling and waste management for the next 25 years. By working together, the three councils hope to achieve economies of scale in providing quality, cost-effective and environmentally friendly waste management solutions, they say.

Following the award of Private Finance Initiative (PFI) funding for the partnership we are now in the final stages of the tendering process for a 25-year contract to deal with our joint waste, says Janet Dowlman, Bracknell Forest waste management and recycling manager. We work closely together and already have a joint contract for disposal of fridges. We organised a waste analysis for each borough in May and November 2002. We also received £195,000 Recycling and Waste Minimisation Funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) for the RE3 project, which enabled us to undertake a promotional and awareness campaign with Waste Watch and to formulate a joint communications strategy in advance of the joint contract being awarded.

The onus for a cohesive strategy was clear. In 2001/2 the three councils managed approximately 207,500 tonnes of household waste. Of this, 32,900 tonnes (16%) was recycled or composted and a further 7,200 tonnes (3%) was otherwise recovered, but still, 167,400 tonnes (81%) was disposed of to landfill. In addition, the councils managed approximately 25,000 tonnes of other wastes comprising council waste, directly collected commercial waste and commercial/industrial waste delivered directly to civic amenity sites and waste transfer facilities by third parties. The majority of this 25,000 tonnes went to landfill.

In particular Bracknell Forest became concerned over a drop off in kerbside recycling tonnages, which peaked in 2000/1 but then began a gradual decline. Councillor Terry Mills, an executive member for public and environmental services and parish liaison, says that the team brainstormed the issue and carried out customer surveys with 4,000 residents, asking them what would encourage them to recycle. The answer that came back from more than 70% of the residents was that they would like to see plastics collected.

The initial trial began between July and October 2002 in North Ascot and kerbside recycling participation almost trebled, tonnage increased by 53% and paper also increased by 7%.


Plastic was added to the fortnightly kerbside collection of newspapers and cans in May 2003 after the six-month trial. It has been very successful with overall kerbside recycling tonnage up by 12% at the end of the full year and the kerbside collection continues to increase with tonnage up another 16% in the first four months of this year, explains Dowlman.

The issue for the council was to create a business case, which was achieved by waste analysis, an examination of the percentage of recycling achieved through recycling (3%), the opportunity to purchase second-hand sorting and baling plant and the ability to sell sorted materials, a combination that added up to costs being kept within overall recycling revenue budgets. We did invest in second-hand sorting and baling equipment, installed in our Waste Transfer Station, so we are able to sell the separated materials, says Dowlman.

A year on and Mills says that the overall tonnage collected by kerbside is up 22% and helped the council to exceed its Government-set 18% target with an actual figure of 20.4%. As a bonus, other materials, includin

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