Food Waste Expansion Scheme Update
In September 2016 Newry, Mourne and Down District Council approved a project for the provision of a 140L brown bin to an additional 27,500 properties in the district.
The project was driven by the need to ensure compliance with the Food Waste Regulations 2015 which placed a duty on local authorities to provide a separate receptacle for the collection of food waste from April 2017.
It was initially envisaged that this scheme would commence on 1 April 2017. A project plan was drawn up to allow implementation of the scheme on this date.
Key aspects of the plan were:
- Purchase of 140L bins
- Purchase of 7L caddies
- Purchase of caddy liners
- Purchase of additional refuse collection vehicles
- Recruitment of additional staff for collection vehicles
- Communications strategy
- Delivery of bins, caddies and liners in a six week time period
Nature and causes of the difficulties
For the project to commence on 1 April 2017 the brown bins, caddies and liners needed to be available for delivery from mid-February and were ordered from a supplier in good time for this to occur. This allowed a six week window to deliver the bins to the 27,500 identified households.
Unfortunately the supplier had issues which resulted in the initial supply of brown bins not being delivered until the end of March 2017 and the liners not arriving until mid-April 2017
The initial project plan envisaged the recruitment of additional staff to deliver bins during the week with existing staff members delivering bins at the weekend. Unfortunately this recruitment exercise was not successful and deliveries initially occurred at the weekends only which moved the delivery schedule out from six weeks to 12-14 weeks.
The project plan recommended the recruitment of 10 members of staff for the additional refuse collection vehicles collecting brown bins. It was considered that additional staffing would be available from within the existing staffing resource but from the implementation date it was clear that the staffing level would not be sufficient. This shortage of staff resulted in significant missed collections over the first two collection cycles, which led to confusion over collection schedules.
The failure of the supplier to deliver the bins and liners as per schedule was the significant challenge to the success of the project. The delay meant that the deliveries only commenced on 25 March 2017. At this stage the liners had still not been delivered but it was decided to commence delivery of the bins and caddies. It also meant that the commencement date for collection of the additional brown bins had to be moved from the first week in April to the first week in May. This delay also had a knock-on effect on the delivery of the communications strategy
The second significant issue was the failure to recruit additional staff to assist with the delivery of the bins. This extended the delivery time frame from 6 weeks to 12-14 weeks.
The other significant issue was the underestimation of additional staff required as a result of the increased refuse collection rounds.
Corrective actions taken
To mitigate against the delay in the delivery of bins and liners the commencement date for the collection of the bins was moved from the first week in April to the first week in May. The delivery of bins commenced on 25 March 2017, initially without liners being delivered. A record has been kept of properties that did not receive their liners and these will be delivered upon completion of the bin deliveries.
To address the extended delivery time frame, staff were diverted from the cleansing section and with this additional resource deliveries will now be completed within an 11 week time frame. As deliveries of bins were scheduled post the commencement date for the collection of bins a ‘softer’ approach was taken with the communications strategy.
In relation to the additional staff required for the collection of the bins a report was prepared for the Regulatory and Technical Services Committee recommending the recruitment of an additional five members of staff. This recommendation was approved and a recruitment exercise has begun.
The present standing of the project is that approximately 97% of bins have been delivered. Over the last two week collection cycle collections have, in the vast majority of cases, been completed on the scheduled collection day. In addition the process of recruitment of the additional staff has commenced. Initial indications of the impact in terms of the diversion of food waste from the black bin to the brown bin are positive and will help toward the recycling target of 50% by 2020.
Outlook going forward
The outlook going forward is positive with the delivery of bins to be completed by the end of the week and the collection schedule now being achieved. Some caution must be advised as the completion of the recruitment process for additional staff is essential to ensure continued stability. It should also be noted new refuse collection rounds takes some time to bed in and there may be a small number of missed bins as drivers improve their local knowledge. The next phase of the project will see a focus on education to ensure the continuation of the diversion of food waste from the black bin.