How can councils get residents to engage with waste management services?

Apathy is the greatest enemy of waste management. Many local authorities struggle to raise residents’ enthusiasm about refuse collections, or to get them participating in key services such as recycling.

In a bid to peak more people’s interest, councils throughout the UK are looking at innovative ways to improve household engagement, enhancing the way that waste is managed in their community.

Let’s take a look at some of the most successful initiatives… 

Going digital with local details 

It’s no secret how reliant most of us are on our mobiles, and forward-thinking local authorities are tapping into this digital dependency to get their community disposing of household waste more effectively.

For example, East Devon District Council has introduced a resident mobile app, which provides access to news and information about waste collection services in the local area.

In addition, residents can engage directly with waste management teams through the app, reporting missed bin collections or other inconveniences, such as fly tipping and graffiti. This encourages households to become community champions, reporting waste issues affecting the neighbourhood so they can be dealt with as quickly as possible.

The app has proved so successful that East Devon District Council triumphed in the Best New Idea category at this year’s LARAC Celebration Awards – the leading voice for local authorities on recycling, waste and resource management. One reason this campaign stood out is that the council’s app works with Alexa, providing a whole new way of engaging with waste services. 

Residents aren’t talking rubbish

 East Devon isn’t the only local authority turning to technology to get more people fired up about proper refuse disposal.

Flintshire Council recently released an online questionnaire, to find out more about residents’ waste disposal habits, and their frustrations with the current collection system. Questions focus closely on recycling, as the local authority is consistently out-performing national targets. Flintshire is now tantalisingly close to reaching Wales’ 2025 target of recycling 70% of all household waste.

More than 5,000 people responded to the digital survey, and Flintshire Council will analyse the data over the coming weeks to look at where its recycling services need refining.

Read more: 6 innovative ways that councils got more households recycling 

Tackling problem collection periods head-on

Ideally, households will manage their waste effectively all year round. However, there are certain periods of the year where refuse collections can become particularly troublesome for local authorities – and targeted campaigns help to improve collaboration during these times.

For example, South Staffordshire Council ran a successful ‘festive bin men of Christmas’ promotion, launching an online advent calendar that featured recycling tips and general advice, delivered via messages from refuse collection personnel.

By highlighting the impact on hard-working refuse collectors, South Staffordshire Council was able to improve the quality of kerbside collections over Christmas, at the same time as increasing its Facebook page likes by 70%, to support ongoing engagement of residents.

Marrying marketing success with waste management operations

Digital marketing is a great way to reach residents through the electronic devices they use every day, and resident mobile apps in particular can collect valuable data on areas that need to be prioritised.

The challenge for local authorities is to make sure waste management teams can cope with the inevitable uplift in services such as recycling, which follows a successful campaign. There’s no point encouraging people to dispose of refuse more responsibly, only to disappoint them with a poor collection experience.

The key to a successful waste management programme is integrating engagement initiatives within a reliable operational framework, so that any intelligence gathered or increase in uptake can be acknowledged and accommodated immediately.

Councils with a sophisticated waste management platform in place are able to communicate residents’ needs to collection teams in real-time, and also manage improvements to core services within their current structure and budget.

Whitespace is a leading provider of waste management solutions to over 100 local authorities. Book a free demo to see how our software can enhance your services. 


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