Sevenoaks District Council has recently embarked on a major expansion project with Smurfit Kappa Recycling (SKR) to double the number of bring sites where residents can recycle cardboard.
The council has provided bring sites for more than 15 years. There are 51 in total, located close to local amenities, which allow residents to separately recycle a range of materials, including newspapers and magazines, cardboard, mixed cans, plastic bottles, textiles and shoes. At one time this was the only means by which residents could separate their household waste for recycling.
In 2003 a kerbside collection of dry recyclables, collected in a single-use plastic sack, was launched. This saw volumes collected from bring sites reduce dramatically. But although there was less cardboard being collected from bring sites, it still represented a significant volume compared with other materials such as mixed cans and plastic.
So why would residents continue to use bring bank sites when they could have cardboard collected from their doorstep?
Partly, it is due to changes in consumer purchasing and packaging. Households accumulate a growing number of large cardboard boxes, for example from flat-screen TVs and home deliveries. Due to storage issues, they prefer to take these boxes to bring sites rather than hold on to them until the next kerbside collection.
It is also something that the council has actively encouraged because it found that the increasing number of large boxes being placed out for kerbside collections caused an unexpected capacity problem in some parts of the Sevenoaks district.
This was where the crews used split-body vehicles, collecting mixed dry recyclate and loose large cardboard on the 30% side of the vehicle and residual waste on the other.
Intact, very large cardboard boxes can at times cause the 30% side sweep-plate to bind, causing collection delays. And crews find that breaking down large boxes so that it does not bind the sweep-plate is equally time-consuming.
So, rather than discouraging residents from recycling large cardboard by telling them not to put it out with the weekly collection, the council decided to actively promote bring sites as an alternative and ensure they were easily accessible.
Another major reason why councils such as Sevenoaks decide to continue to invest in cardboard recycling at bring sites is to prevent fly-tipping and reduce litter disposal costs.
Residents bringing glass for recycling to sites without cardboard banks would leave empty cardboard boxes and wine carriers in litter bins rather than take them home or – worse yet – on the ground. So cardboard litter and bins filled with cardboard at recycling sites – none of which was being recycled – posed both operational and financial problems.
It meant that litter crews had to visit some sites more often than scheduled, and the council had the additional cost of disposing of otherwise recyclable cardboard, which could be a revenue source.
The size and accessibility of bring sites can pose real challenges for contractors when installing containers and making collections. Historically in Sevenoaks, cardboard was collected in large front-end loading containers at only 12 sites due to space restrictions.
This meant that 80% of sites offered no facility for recycling cardboard. In the other 20% there were separate newspaper, magazine and cardboard banks serviced by two contractors each driving large collection vehicles.
The opportunity to resolve all these issues came when the contract with the provider of the newspaper and magazines banks service came up for renewal.
Potential providers were invited to propose a solution, and SKR was appointed in spring 2013. SKR’s solution was to install 30 modular igloo-style cardboard banks at 10 sites around Sevenoaks. These included car parks at a supermarket, library and recreation ground. These smaller banks fit into new sites much more easily, and give Sevenoaks council the flexibility to increase capacity where there is greater demand. If the banks fill up quickly, SKR can just add on more modules.
A further benefit is that the gaps between banks, which tended to attract fly-tipping, are sealed off.
Each site is reviewed on an individual basis. One supermarket site with six modular banks proved so popular that an entirely new container was deemed necessary. SKR has now installed a large capacity ‘superbank’ which currently collects more than a tonne of material each week.
Last autumn, SKR took over a further 30 paper recycling igloos previously serviced by another contractor and rebranded all 60 as both paper and cardboard banks.
All kinds of paper and cardboard – from cereal boxes to ready meal sleeves and even Yellow Pages directories – are accepted for recycling. This is not only easy for residents but also removes the issue of cross-contamination, where cardboard was being placed in the newspaper and magazine banks.
The material is then sent to Smurfit Kappa’s facility in nearby Snodland for onward reprocessing into new packaging materials – all made in the UK.
Collections from all sites with igloos are undertaken by a Hiab crane vehicle, which can lift the igloo over parked cars for emptying so that service is not interrupted because of access issues.
The scheme has proved very successful, with average weekly tonnages increasing from two tonnes of cardboard to almost seven tonnes of mixed paper and card, and rising. This all provides an income to the council.
Crews visiting the bring sites on a daily basis observe that the larger cardboard packaging which had been causing problems on the kerbside collection vehicles is regularly now being recycled away from home, and cardboard littering has reduced.
The scheme will continue to expand. A total of 63 igloos are now assigned and other sites are being actively sought. SKR continues to work closely with the council’s recycling team to identify suitable sites and containers, as well as reviewing collection schedules to maximise efficiency.
Overview of Scheme
- 48,910 households
- 36% recycling rate
- Cardboard recycling-enabled sites more than doubled in 6 months
- Average tonnage per igloo per week: 112kg
- One superbank collects 1 tonne per week
- Residents no longer need to separate paper from card at bring sites
- Litter disposal savings
- Bring sites generate income
- Source-segregated material streams increase quality
The view from the council
Council retains income and improves quality
Charles Nouhan, recycling and commercial manager, Sevenoaks District Council:
Why continue to provide community recycling bring sites? The combined income received from glass, paper and cardboard means they are viable and self-funding.
Although redirecting bring site paper and cardboard to our kerbside collection service is an option, we continue to gain greater benefit by retaining the bring site services and the income – which we would not receive from our commingled kerbside collection – and by maintaining some source-segregated recyclate streams, glass in particular, to improve overall materials quality.
The fact that material is reprocessed in the UK is important to Sevenoaks council. Many of our residents are concerned about end-use destination too, so the SKR scheme meets that need.
The company’s team with whom we work are friendly, professional and customer-service oriented. The same goes for the people who service the modules: the sites are serviced as promised and left in pristine condition after each visit, even when residents have left cardboard on the ground.
Ian Halson is Smurfit Kappa Recycling’s business development manager for local authorities