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It’s the most wasteful time of the year: 6 strategies for dealing with festive rubbish


Christmas is traditionally a time for giving, but where there’s presents, there is also rubbish. As other industries wind down for the festive period, the waste management sector is experiencing a peak in demand – and local authorities can often still be clearing the Christmas backlog well into the New Year.

To prevent the next few weeks from overwhelming your collection crews and disposal centres, Whitespace has put together six simple strategies for managing festive waste:

1.  Be clear about when collections are happening

It’s easy to lose track of what day of the week it is at this time of year – so families can be forgiven for forgetting when their rubbish is being collected over Christmas. For waste management teams, however, this can lead to surplus rubbish building up over the festive period that needs to be dealt with in January.

The best way to deal with this threat is heading it off at the pass; making sure local residents know when their waste will be picked up during the Christmas holiday. This can be done via leaflets, email and social media campaigns – and you may also have a resident portal or mobile app to circulate seasonal reminders.

2. Remind households what materials can be recycled

It’s not just the volume of waste that challenges councils over Christmas; it’s managing the different types of rubbish being left out by households. For example, COVID-19 concerns and social distancing measures mean more presents than ever have been bought online in 2020 – ecommerce will account for 30% of all festive sales – which means a huge volume of cardboard will need collecting.

Help households to manage their waste responsibly this year, by reminding them what types of packaging can be recycled, and how recycling collections differ to normal black bag waste. If you have a food waste scheme in place, this is also an ideal time to make sure local residents are taking part. As, according to Respect Food, around two million turkeys, five million Christmas puddings and 74 million mince pies will be thrown out in the next few weeks.

3. Get collection crews to report back in real-time

Even with clear communications to the community, larger than normal refuse volumes are inevitable over Christmas. The question your waste management teams will want to know is how much larger, and which parts of the local area are driving the surge.

Rather than trying to second guess this information, the simplest way to manage waste disposal requirements is to get collection crews to report back in real-time using in-cab mobile apps.

Your team in the field will be able to provide valuable data during their rounds, so office-based teams can allocate resources and plan routes, to ensure rubbish is collected and disposed of as efficiently as possible.

4. Respond quickly to sudden demands

In addition to managing future rounds through real-time reporting, your collection crews may be faced with seasonal refuse issues that require more urgent attention. For example, earlier this year we reported the rise of fly tipping in the UK – and illegal waste can often prove obstructive or dangerous to local residents.

There are two things your waste management team must do to react quickly to sudden demands. Firstly, they need to reschedule resources to prioritise major issues, and this means having the right workflow management tools to run an agile schedule. Secondly, they need to be able to produce ad-hoc round sheets to manage problems like fly tipping, so crews can be rapidly dispatched to clear the problem that same day.

5. Share your successes – and your challenges

Christmas is an intense time of the year, but as soon as Big Ben rings in the New Year, we tend to move on and look forward. While this is no bad thing, it doesn’t give local authorities the chance to take stock on what worked well in terms of festive waste management, and where improvements can be made next year.

It’s important that these insights aren’t just analysed internally; for maximum impact they should be shared organisation-wide. With the right reporting software, your waste management staff can share vital statistics with senior personnel, to help with planning, goal setting and budgeting for the year ahead.

You may even want to share key statistics with local residents, to help them become more mindful about their consumption levels. If people knew how much rubbish was thrown out in the community over Christmas, perhaps they’d buy a bit less next year!

6. Invest in technology to make the whole processes easier in 2021

2020 has been a truly testing year for us all, particularly those working for local authorities. Your back-office teams have been coordinating logistics in new environments, and getting to grips with remote working and social distancing guidelines. Your collection crews, meanwhile, have been among the key workers keeping the country’s infrastructure running smoothly.

Understandably, these challenging circumstances have pushed everyone to their limits, and every single person involved in municipal waste management should be thanked for their hard work. However, it’s important that we learn key lessons from this year and look at how we can offer front-line staff more support – and for many local authorities, this will mean prioritising investment in new waste management software for 2021.

Whitespace municipal waste management software is used by over 100 local authorities to coordinate refuse collections. Book a free demo to see how our technology can improve your waste management services in 2021.

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