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Technology can drive more effective recycling

Nicola Peake

Computers and GPS systems may not be the first thing that springs to mind when local authorities think about introducing a new recycling service but new technology can play a pivotal role in helping to facilitate a smooth service introduction.

Planning a new recycling and waste service presents many challenges for service providers and local authorities. New collection crews have to familiarise themselves with the street plans and collection routes, the local council has to rigorously communicate changes to the collection calendars and recycling requirements as well as managing customer queries as quickly as possible. In addition, residents need to adjust to new ways of sorting their recycling and, often, need to get used to a new waste collection calendar.

“The key is to recognise up front that a robust plan needs to be in place”

Meanwhile, expecting every household to smoothly adjust to their new collection arrangements and to correctly sort recyclable materials immediately is impossibly optimistic and equally, crews will inevitably miss some collections during the initial mobilisation period.

The key to addressing these issues is to recognise up front that some mobilisation issues will occur and that a robust plan needs to be in place to deal with any expected issues and address them quickly.

In November, May Gurney and West Oxfordshire District Council faced these challenges when implementing a new weekly recycling and residual waste collection scheme involving more than 45,000 households in West Oxfordshire. The new service introduced food waste recycling and free garden waste recycling for the first time.

The service implementation was crucially aided by a new vehicle tracking system, monitored via a control hub, which identifies where the waste vehicles are at every point in their rounds and allows controllers to update the crew, in real time, if any collections have been missed (whether that is due to the resident putting waste out late or the crew overlooking the bins).

The control hub is based on MGConnect, May Gurney’s technology platform, and has been developed in partnership with West Oxfordshire District Council to tailor the system to suit its specific needs.

It includes a screen in the cab of each collection vehicle, showing where it is within its collection route and enables managers at the control hub operations centre to send messages direct to the crew.

The technology also plays a key part in effective route planning by enabling crews to move round the area in the most efficient way. The system can also be adapted to give drivers advice on driving more energy efficiently.

The improved crew and route scheduling and ability to direct crews in real time as to any customer or collection issues has ensured a very smooth start to the scheme in West Oxfordshire, importantly minimising missed collections.

In future the real-time communications between recycling and collection service control hubs and the crews on the ground can be extended so that the recycling centres will know the loads of each type of recyclable waste on trucks. This real-time communication will allow recycling centres to ensure their staffs are positioned and ready to start processing the most heavily collected types of waste immediately and will allow recycling operators to plan collections and reprocessing activities before the waste arrives in their facilities.

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