The UK’s rising population is overstretching council services. How can you respond?

The UK is a growing country. Our population has now passed the 66 million mark – and while more people means larger communities, it also means more strain on essential services.

For local authorities, expanding neighbourhoods are increasing the pressure on your waste management. How can you improve refuse collections, to manage more households than ever before? Let’s take a closer look…

More people, more homes, more waste

The UK’s expanding population is putting regional infrastructure under pressure, with many waste management systems already stretched to their absolute limits.

Essex County Council recently announced that it has been forced to allocate £5 million additional funds to deal with 47,000 tonnes of extra household waste produced during the coronavirus crisis. And local authorities across the country will be managing even more waste as they invest in housing development schemes to meet the government’s target of building 300,000 new homes a year.

A future-focused approach is needed to help councils grow waste management services in-line with population density – here are some suggestions for where you can start:

Build closer relationships with local residents

As new people move into the local area, it’s more important than ever that councils get communities to support waste disposal programmes.

Our dedicated blog post on how councils can engage residents with waste management services looks at this issue in detail, but some ideas for nurturing a closer relationship include:

  • Regularly sharing details about how waste should be disposed of and when – so residents are clear about guidelines around recycling versus general waste, for example.
  • Using digital platforms like social media and community mobile apps to connect people with essential collection information, and allow them to report back on issues in their neighbourhood. Exeter City Council is already keeping locals entertained with regular updates from Denis the Dustcart, who even has his own Facebook page!
  • Gathering more data on household waste disposal habits, to build services around people’s needs. This can be done in the form of a residents’ survey, or by using waste management software with built-in analysis and reporting tools.

So often, the root cause of waste management issues is a breakdown in communication. The clearer and more frequently you can interact with communities, the stronger your performance can become.

Innovate to engage people

While transparent, two-way communication is important for strong foundations, sometimes more innovative measures are needed to boost engagement. Across the UK, there are some really interesting examples of how regions are getting people to dispose of rubbish responsibly.

For example, environmental collective Hubbub has encouraged residents in Leeds to recycle single-use packaging by introducing on-street collection points for drinks cans, plastic bottles and takeaway coffee cups. The #LeedsByExample campaign has reached over 18 million people on social media, resulting in more than 1.2 million pieces of packaging being recycled.

There are also some interesting waste management innovations happening behind the scenes. For instance, Coventry’s Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) has just received approval for a game-changing project to introduce AI-powered robots for rubbish sorting, in order to raise recycling rates.

Optimise waste management processes

Coventry’s AI investment raises an interesting point about the value of internal change. Even if every resident disposes of their rubbish responsibly, council waste management teams still needs the workflows and processes to deal with that refuse effectively.

The biggest change that local authorities can make to future-proof your refuse collection system is investing in municipal waste management software. The right technology will streamline the way recycling and residual waste is picked up, sorted and disposed of, to make regional infrastructure run as smoothly as possible.

From beginning to end, there are many ways to optimise your waste management services for greater efficiency. For example:

  • Setting up best practice workflows to ensure that each element of the waste disposal process runs fluidly.
  • Taking communications online so that waste management teams can easily respond to requests and changes – from generating digital round sheets to ad hoc fly tipping jobs.
  • Giving collection crews in-cab mobile apps so they can provide updates in real-time, easily navigating through their rounds and documenting essential checks and exceptions.
  • Centrally recording feedback from local residents, such as complaints and missed collection notices, to understand where improvements need to be made.
  • Analysing and reporting on performance throughout the year, to continually innovate and meet annual targets.

Operational efficiency will reach a critical point as population density tests the strength and flexibility of waste management services. Councils that respond now have a chance to learn and explore new software, so you’re operating at peak proficiency as your community grows.

Whitespace Municipal Waste Management Software is already being used by 100+ UK local authorities to innovate their waste strategy and coordinate collections.

Book a free demo to see how Whitespace software works.


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