The Top 5 Challenge of Managing Local Authority Waste Data- Part 1

The Top 5 Challenges of Managing Local Authority Waste Data – Part 1

Posted byJim Baird (live) on Wed, Oct 30, 2013
Waste data England

We’ve spoken before about the mounting challenges facing Local Authorities and their waste and recycling contractors as they attempt to deal with trying to achieve escalating recycling targets (Waste Framework Directive target – 50% of household waste by 2020) and reduction in landfill tonnages against a backdrop of the most severe public sector spending cuts in living memory. These challenges are exacerbated by the fact that there are no obvious silver bullets in the form of additional recycling services, with the exception of food waste collection, or indeed new technology that is likely to significantly improve recovery rates. All of this points to having to do more with less and to improve the efficiency of existing services. In order to do this effectively Local Authorities need good data! and guess what? Councils already have plenty of good data.In this series of blog posts we explore the Top 5 Challenges Facing Local Authority Waste Data Officers. We’ll outline the issues and present some practical solutions to dealing with these challenges. In this first post we look at the challenge of setting a system of recording data properly.

First, what do we mean when we say that councils already have good data?  The fact is that almost every piece of waste managed by a council is weighed, either for landfill tax and/or invoice purposes.  At the point of weighing – the weighbridge – it is possible to link the ticket to the source of the waste, i.e. the collection route or activity.  If that link can be made with the weighbridge ticket – and most weighbridge software systems allow this – then the opportunity to use the weighbridge data effectively is not lost.

Tip 1 – Record the source of the waste with the weighbridge ticket – The weighbridge operator and driver should work together to ensure the route is recorded against the ticket.  Don’t rely on vehicle registrations or driver name to determine the route.  Vehicles break down or are moved around and drivers do take holidays.

What about vehicles which act as spares covering for other routes and breakdowns?  Well first thing is don’t let the driver record the route as “Spare”.  The word spare should not appear on a weighbridge report since there is no such thing as a spare route.  The driver should use his judgement to describe the collection route or activity came from.

Tip 2 – Use a card system to inform the weighbridge operator – Give the driver the responsibility to display the name of the route. Part of the role should be to make sure the route or collection activity is displayed on the windscreen. Supply the waste contractor with a list of all the routes that are in use and require the contractor to accurately record what is displayed on the cab.

Tip 3 – Give each collection route/activity a unique code or name and stick to it – Sounds simple but we have found that drivers/supervisors/managers think they use the same name for routes but don’t. Drivers might refer to “GW1”, “Green 1” or “Garden 1” for the same route. Confusion creeps in when this is reported back through a weighbridge report. Even something like “Route 1” fails to describe if the route is for the residual week’s collection or the dry recyclate week.

We suggest constructing a logical coding system from which the route can later be inferred. “N1ResM” could refer to north route 1 residual bin on a Monday. “S2DryT” would be south route 2 dry recyclate on a Tuesday.

Tip 4 – Only use daily routes if necessary – a refuse collection vehicle servicing a fortnightly garden waste collection will have ten different routes to cover over the two week cycle. Should we have a “Green1Wk1M”, “Green1Wk1T”, “Green1Wk1W” etc. to describe the ten daily routes? This creates a lot of work for the driver to remember to display the right card to display for each day. The easiest approach is to describe the routes as weekly. But note that from the date of the ticket it should be possible in a later spreadsheet to extract the day of the week. In this example we would need to record two weekly activities “Green1Wk1” and “Green1Wk2”. The only caution to the waste data officer is to pay attention to holiday periods such as New Year when a route might be serviced a day later. But this approach is less prone to error.

Some collection activities don’t need to be given a daily or weekly route. If wood waste is being collected from a HWRC site, it doesn’t matter what day of the week the waste is collected. The collection activity is simply HWRCSiteNameWood and this should be used for all wood waste taken from the site in question. Note however, we should record the site or source of the wood waste.

Tip 5 – Make sure you get the weighbridge data you require – Three pieces of information are key – date of ticket, net weight and associated collection activity. However there is more information that can be reported and be of use to the council.

  • Time in and time out – For a contracted collection service an important requirement is to ensure a quick turnaround at the waste facility. Subtracting time out from time in provides the number of minutes the vehicle spends in the facility. Anything over 10 minutes might be regarded as downtime and an important point for discussion with contractors and drivers.
  • Gross and tare weight – We would expect the weighbridge operator to report the net weight accurately. However, knowing the weight of the vehicle and comparing the ticket’s vehicle registration with the allowed Gross Vehicle Weight (GVW) is important for transport compliance.
  • Vehicle registration number and driver’s name – Over a period of a year for instance this might be useful to understand the number of routes actually serviced by the vehicle or the number of tips made. Both the driver’s name and vehicle registration can be used to identify where a route has been wrongly coded or rectified.

Tip 6 – Process the driver’s weighbridge ticket slip – A 10 tonne load of waste for landfill will have an associated invoice of around £900. So checking what a contractor reports against the ticket is important. The driver’s slips aren’t for decorating the inside of a cab but rather as the council’s evidence that a weighbridge ticket can be legitimately charged to the council. Set a process up and communicate to the drivers that these slips should be handed to the waste data officer promptly.

We have used a consistent terminology above when we talk about collection route and activity.   Where a certain area of households is collected routinely, this is effectively a actvity, which, if we know the number of households represented, we can later determine the yield (kg/hh/wk) from that area and the date of collection if required.

The above tips are about getting the foundations of waste data management right.  Without it, valuable information will be lost.

Our next blog in this series will explore the preferred format requirements for  our weighbridge data.
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Tags: Local authority waste, Local Authority Recycling, Waste Management Process Efficiency, Recycling Best Practice