Lessons learnt from COVID-19

Whitespace Work Software’s CEO, Mark Garvey, looks back at the recent letsrecycle.com webinar which discussed the role technology has had to play in helping local authorities continue to deliver waste and recycling services during the Covid-19 pandemic.

When we first entered lockdown in March the waste and recycling sector was quickly and rightly recognised as one of the UK’s key sectors. The practical challenges of operating during a pandemic however resulted in serious concerns as to whether local authorities could continue to provide effective household waste and recycling services. As a result, the potential for significant health and wellbeing issues associated with the build-up of waste became very real.

Recently, I was fortunate to join representatives from LARAC, Lewes and Eastbourne Councils to discuss some of the operational challenges associated with the collection of household waste during the crisis and how technology played an important part in averting any potential ‘waste crisis’.

The whole panel recognised the outstanding work of all UK local authorities in maintaining service levels against such a difficult backdrop. And as the prospect of tighter lockdowns loomed once again participants reflected on their experiences from earlier in the year which saw household waste volumes increase by 20-30% almost overnight. This challenge was compounded by 20% reduction in resources as crew sizes were reduced to maintain social distancing and many had to self-isolate, shield or take sick leave.

The impact of COVID and lockdown far exceeded any previous emergency planning scenarios and resulted in many councils needing to make reactive and rapid decisions. The panel considered how many of the features and benefits associated with modern technology aided this reaction and became of even more important during the crisis. These included:

  • Enhanced operational efficiency and the ability to do more with less resources.
  • Improved communications with direct two-way communication with residents. This helped to communicate service changes or improve issue resolution at times when contact centres were under extreme pressure.
  • Deployment of mobile technology enabling real-time reporting of service issues such as contamination or missed collections – with the ability to provide photos and a timestamp.
  • Consolidation of multiple systems into a single solution and effective integration with wider council applications such as CRMs.
  • Modelling of scenarios to aid future planning.

The event also looked forward and took the time to review some of the new and innovative technologies that are coming to market such as integration with residents’ smart speakers; the use of worn technology such as smart watches for crews and the deeper integration of systems enabling improved data share across the authority.

For those wanting to find out more a recording of the webinar is still available for local authorities and service partners to view.

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