Recycling collections for flats - introduction

Many local authorities in the UK, that provide comprehensive recycling collection schemes for kerbside properties, are now focusing on improving recycling and food waste collection schemes to flats in order to:

  • Meet Local Area Agreements, Landfill Allowance Trading Scheme (LATS) targets and the requirements of the Household Waste Recycling Act 2003
  • Continue to improve recycling performance
  • Meet resident demand and continue to improve services to all residents

This guidance has been developed specifically to assist local authority officers to launch, manage and improve recycling and food waste collection schemes for blocks of flats.  It can also be used by other individuals, organisations and partnerships with an interest in recycling services for flats. 

It draws together and builds on lessons learned from the 2006 report Recycling for flats commissioned by Defra, with subsequent research and experiences of local authorities. 

As flats recycling schemes and knowledge develop, so will this guidance.  To add your experiences to the guidance please contact the LGS team at WRAP.

Recycling collections from flats

Traditionally, recycling and food waste collection schemes have been rolled out to flats as a blanket service, with all blocks of flats within a local authority’s boundaries receiving the same type of collection scheme. However, blocks of flats vary considerably; from the refuse disposal methods used to the communication opportunities available, meaning that a single type of scheme is unlikely to provide the most effective recycling solution for all blocks of flats.  Increasingly, local authorities are recognising the value of assessing blocks of flats individually, and introducing different schemes to best fit the needs of each block. This approach has several benefits over blanket schemes:

  • schemes can be designed to make recycling as easy as refuse disposal for residents, increasing participation in recycling schemes and hence capture of materials;
  • the risks associated with recycling at each block can be assessed and managed; and
  • specific opportunities related to recycling schemes and communications can be identified and harnessed.

This approach does require a greater level of management than the introduction of a blanket scheme but can be simplified at the operational design stage. For example, ensuring materials collected from residents via chutes or bring sites are presented in the same type of container at ground level for collection by a vehicle. 

Using this guidance

The guidance has been developed so that sections can be read independently. This means that you can just read the sections that are relevant to you.  Each section provides basic information supported by downloads and links that can be accessed for more detailed information.

Whether you are aiming to improve an existing recycling or food waste collection scheme, or introduce a new scheme from scratch there will be information in each section that could be useful to you. 

Summaries of different sections are outlined below to help you decide which ones to read. The sections can be read in any order, although if you are launching a new service it may be best to read them in the order outlined below as this is a logical process to follow when implementing new a new service.

Strategic planning

1. Understanding flats

In order to plan the best ways of providing or improving a food waste and recycling service to flats, it is useful to understand some of the factors that make flats unique from other properties. This section:

  • defines the main types of flats;
  • outlines the collection and communication challenges associated with flats; and
  • explains some common terminology.

2. Key issues to consider

This section is designed to assist high level planning and decision making.  It includes:

  • advice on setting effective aims and objectives;
  • a template implementation plan with step-by-step activities for launching or improving a flats recycling service; and
  • a simple tool to help you calculate the impact of different collection schemes on your recycling rate.

Operational planning

3. Consulting with stakeholders

Consulting with stakeholders is essential in order to secure their support and identify any additional resources they might provide.  This section:

  • provides a step-by-step guide for consulting with stakeholders;
  • identifies different stakeholders and their usual motivations (drivers); and
  • outlines approaches to consultation.

4. Conducting a flats inventory

Every block of flats is individual in terms of building features, management structure and types of residents. Therefore, it is unlikely that a single type of recycling or food waste collection scheme will be suitable for all blocks of flats within a council’s boundaries.  This section provides a step-by-step guide for assessing blocks of flats and advice on specific features of the building that may affect the types of collection scheme that can be provided.

5. Health and safety

The consequences if there is a fire, accident or injury at a block of flats can be extremely serious and risks can be greater than in houses (e.g. a fire in a block of flats could spread quickly and have a greater impact than a fire in a house).  This section provides:

  • advice on conducting risk assessments;
  • links to relevant legislation and guidance; and
  • an outline of the responsibilities of different stakeholders.

Operation of different collection schemes

6. Introduction to collection schemes

This section introduces the main types of collection schemes for flats.  Each of the subsequent sections on collection schemes includes:

  • an outline of how material is collected;
  • a list of what is good about the scheme and what problems there could be; and
  • top tips on implementing a scheme and links to further information.

7. 'Bring' recycling schemes

‘Bring’ schemes for flats are based on residents bringing their own recycling or food waste to communal collection containers located near their block of flats. Often also referred to as near entry schemes.

8. Chute recycling schemes

Chutes in most buildings are designed for residents to dispose of refuse but there are a number of options for the collection of recycling which are discussed in this section.

9. Door to door collection schemes

During door-to-door collections, recyclable materials or food waste are collected from residents’ doorsteps and transported to ground level. 

10. Collections from each floor

Recycling collection containers are installed on each floor of a block of flats.  Material from these containers is then taken to a central bulking area on the ground floor of the building.

11. Food waste collections from flats

Food waste collections from flats differ to those from kerbside properties. As there are many more councils now collecting food waste from flats, some recent research (2001/12) was conducted to gather information to update WRAP’s guidance.

12. Flats as part of a commercial building

Also referred to as flats above shops, these property types are often the last in an authority to receive a recycling collection. This section contains information to assist with the planning and implementing of recycling schemes for residents that live in these flats.

13. Bulky waste collections from flats

Bulky items from blocks of flats can successfully be collected for re-use and recycling when suitable management systems are in place. This section draws on WRAP’s Bulky Waste Guidance with extra useful flats specific information.

Implementation of recycling schemes

14. Equipment to support recycling collections

This section outlines details of equipment that can be used on-site to support different recycling collection schemes.  It includes:

  • a tool providing guidance on the amount of capacity required to contain refuse and recycling;
  • an illustrated outline of equipment currently available e.g. trolleys, collection containers and composting equipment; and
  • links to further information.

15. Collection vehicles for flats

When selecting appropriate collection vehicles, it is important to take into account some of the features of flats that make them different from kerbside properties.  This section outlines some of the issues that may affect vehicle access to flats, and provides tips and links to further information.

16. Monitoring and evaluation

It is very important to monitor the performance of a flats recycling and food waste service regularly, in order to identify what is working well and how a service can be improved.  This section provides guidance on how to monitor different aspects of collection schemes and how the information gathered can be used.

17. Communications

This section summarises some of the key challenges that are faced when communicating with residents in flats and how they might be overcome.

18. Methods of improving performance

In this section, methods of increasing capture of materials from flats are discussed and tips on dealing with common service problems such as contamination are provided. 

Further support and advice

This guidance was written by LRS Consultancy on behalf of WRAP.

Please visit the main Local Authorities webpage for further guidance documents, the current training programme and how to apply for support.

For further support and advice, contact LASupport@wrap.org.uk