Councils need to help tackle the UK’s climate emergency

Protect your planet environmentalist protesting against global w

Global warming has been a cause for concern for some time, but many scientists are now warning that we face a climate emergency.

Extreme weather conditions such as heatwaves, heavy rainfall and severe droughts are likely to become more commonplace according to Met Office predictions, while sea level rises will put 1.2 million homes at risk of flooding in the next 60 years.

As the UK prepares to host the UN’s Climate Change Conference, COP26, in Glasgow this Autumn, local authorities across the country are joining the call for action. But what changes can council waste management teams make to help reduce our environmental footprint?

300 councils have declared a climate emergency

Climate change is a critical issue, being debated at the highest political level. A new Climate and Ecology Bill is currently going through consideration, which would require the Prime Minister to achieve a number of environmental objectives.

Meanwhile, a research group has suggested that the climate emergency should be taken as seriously as pandemic recovery, with the government regularly publishing data on the impact of ecological changes.

Many local authorities realise the serious impact of global warming on UK communities, and 300 of the country’s 404 district, county, unitary and metropolitan councils have now declared a state of climate emergency. But practically speaking, what can organisations do to slow climate change?

Sustainability is a strategy for everyone, in every team

The first step towards tackling climate change at local authority level is to appoint people to lead change. Many councils have a dedicated environmental officer, but it’s important that their initiatives are promoted and implemented by other senior leaders. The more people back new ideas, the quicker they gain momentum.

Another important change is to make sustainability part of EVERY department’s plans, not just a standalone strategy. If each team has environmental targets, improvements can be made across multiple services – accumulatively reducing climate impact.

Taking the fight against global warming down to departmental level also enables teams to set specific goals that are relevant to their role, rather than trying to interpret and apply general advice. Budget can then be allocated to these initiatives, so teams have the right resources to make positive changes.

For example, within council waste management teams, embracing electric powered vehicles could make a huge difference to regional carbon footprints. Research by Eunomia has found that switching over to electric refuse trucks would reduce UK greenhouse gas emissions by 290 kt of carbon dioxide per year – that’s the equivalent of recycling 16 billion plastic bottles.

However, a radical move like this takes a huge amount of financial and logistical investment. For waste management groups not ready to take such a big leap, there’s still a lot of changes that can be made to ensure refuse collections are more environmentally friendly.

Reducing carbon emissions through waste management technology

Keeping carbon emissions to a minimum relies on careful planning and strategy – something that many waste management teams struggle to achieve today because they don’t have the right tools for the job.

Municipal waste management software can be a real gamechanger for tackling climate change at council level, as it enables authorities to introduce more sustainable practices, make eco-friendly changes, and analyse department success.

For starters, waste management technology is completely digital, which means teams can go paper-free in their approach.

But on a deeper level, using software to create waste management workflows enables councils to understand the demands being placed on local services, and make strategic choices that limit environmental impact.

For example, the decision about how many refuse trucks to send out (and how often) no longer has to be based on old habits or gut instincts. Municipal waste management software enables teams to plan collections based on real-time information – factoring-in additional requirements such as missed collections or a fly tipping incidents.

One of the reasons that waste management software works so well is that it enables instant in-cab communication with collection crews, so any problems can be reported and dealt with swiftly; no more despatching an extra truck at a later date, just to deal with one issue.

Getting residents more involved in green initiatives

Investing in waste management software can also help local authorities to implement green initiatives, such as improving regional recycling schemes.

The government has set a target of bringing UK greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, and recycling will have a major influence how quickly this goal is reached. It takes 76% less energy to make a drinks can from recycled aluminium compared to manufacturing it from scratch. Recycled glass products use 21% less energy in the production process, while there’s a 76% reduction in energy manufacturing plastic bottles from recycled materials.

Going digital with waste management services not only helps councils to manage recycling workflows more effectively; it creates new opportunities to educate communities on the importance of disposing of household waste in the correct manner.

For example, a growing number of local authorities are investing in online resident portals and mobile apps, which allow them to share critical information online. In addition to saving paper, digital content can be updated dynamically to create timely pro-recycling campaigns – and residents can use the online platforms to share updates, concerns and questions. All of this feedback will inform waste management strategies and encourage the uptake of environmentally-friendly schemes.

Every improvement counts towards climate change goals

Tackling climate change can seem like such a vast goal that a relatively simple switch like coordinating refuse collections online can seem like a drop in the ocean. However, if every single council across the UK makes their own small steps forward in the way they manage household waste, the collective impact is massive.

Municipal waste management software is a straightforward way to use less paper, become more strategic in the way collections are structured, increase recycling rates and cut back on vehicle emissions. And the software’s in-built analytics tools can prove the impact of these changes – so everyone can see how waste management teams are playing their part.

Whitespace software helps council waste management teams to understand your scope of work and make sustainable improvements, reducing the environmental impact of regional refuse collections. Book a free demo to find out more.  


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