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Ticking recycling boxes

Croydon Council won the award for Local Authority Team of the Year at this year’s National Recycling Awards. Andrea Lockerbie looks at why

Following a significant service change that involved the introduction of weekly food waste collections, kerbside plastics recycling and a fortnightly ‘landfill bin’ collection, Croydon council formed a team to engage with its non-recyclers, particularly around food waste, and increase recycling rates.

Croydon is the largest London borough by population, with approximately 144,500 properties receiving recycling services, around 125,000 of these receiving a kerbside service. The borough is very diverse and has some areas of significant economic deprivation.

The judges praised the team “who tackled head-on an important and difficult waste stream in a diverse community”.

Its food waste engagement team consisted of team manager Joanna, team leader, Emmanuel, project officer Badshah, project officer Ade, project officer Terry, and project officer Andy.

Emphasis was placed on building a flexible, multi-talented and multi-lingual team who could communicate with the area’s non-English speaking residents, who are often hard to engage with, as well as those who can be resistant to behavioural change.

Between them, the team could speak a range of African and Indian dialects, which was clearly beneficial in an area where over 70 languages are spoken. They also brought with them a wealth of experience from involvement in various waste and recycling projects.

“We are absolutely delighted to win this award as it really emphasises the commitment we have to maximising recycling within the borough and making sure we get the best value for money for our residents.”

Joanna Dixon-Fillingham, community recycling officer, Croydon council

Croydon council identified properties that did not put out any recycling and then targeted them in order to boost recycling participation. Identifying the relevant properties required statistical analysis of ‘lock out’ sheets which collection crews use to make a note of properties which do not put out recycling for collection. This analysis identified almost 2,000 target properties which were then monitored over a two week period. As per WRAP guidance, properties were removed from scope that had started recycling or been discounted for other reasons. The final list of properties was then targeted by the team, who developed a script to guide the door step interaction and uncover reasons for not recycling, with additional recycling boxes or food caddies provided if required.

If a property was door knocked and nobody answered the team made repeat visits at differing times of day to gain a response. After three unsuccessful visits, a letter was posted through the letterbox.

After the team had engaged with a resident on the doorstep, the property would be monitored for a further two weeks to evaluate whether it had started recycling.

The team exceeded its objectives and through persistence, flexibility and door knocking at various times of the day, ensured over 83% of identified properties were engaged with.

Following the team’s engagement with residents who previously recycled nothing, an average set out rate of 35.93% was achieved for food waste and a participation rate of 48.35%. The recycling box service had an average set out rate 45.57%, and a participation rate of 57.68%. This meant an overall service participation rate of 69.15% was achieved.

Considering this relates to properties least likely to recycle out of approximately 125,000 properties receiving the recycling box service, it underlines an outstanding result by the dedicated team.


Category finalists:

  • Aylesbury Vale District Council
  • Biffa Municipal
  • Caerphilly County Borough Council
  • Cheshire West and Chester Council
  • Enterprise Managed Services
  • London Borough of Merton
  • London Fire Brigade
  • Oxfordshire County Council

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