A new ‘Guide to Improving Waste Management in the Domestic Rented Sector’ was released last Friday.
CIWM Journal Online says the guide was commissioned “after research suggested that issues including excess waste, difficulty in containing waste, and high levels of recycling contamination from the rented sector contributed to poor street scene and represented a barrier to London reinvigorating recycling.“
With so many ‘actors’ sharing responsibility for household recycling and waste habits and performance (particularly in apartment blocks and HMOs), it’s a hugely complex topic. As Eunomia who developed the report put it, there is “no single ‘silver bullet’ intervention”. Instead they identify two broad areas of intervention – educate and encourage and enact and enforce – offering recommendations which include:
- incorporating waste management into landlord licensing processes
- using tenancy agreements to communicate responsibilities to tenants
- making targeted communications for landlords and tenants on responsibilities and how to use the waste services available
These are sound ideas that may well help tackle the unique challenges London and all cities face. That said, there is simply no getting away from the fact that without the provision of adequate, accessible, all-user-friendly containers and waste systems, the issues of excess, containment/’leakage’ and contamination will persist. And as city populations continue to grow, so too will the size of the problems.
Incentives to get smart – a missed opportunity?
Practical solutions exist: Compacting bins – whether solar or mains powered, for waste or recycling, with fill-level sensors or without – were designed with high-density, high traffic sites in mind. The same is true of underground or semi-underground waste systems (UWS/SUWS), which is why all three are becoming more common place in public spaces. They are equally well suited to the domestic rented sector, offering not just answers to the problems that triggered the guide, but also the added benefits of emissions-reducing, cost-saving operational efficiencies too. Unsurprisingly, the set-up cost for these smarter options is a tad more than for a set of ‘wheelie’ bins. For larger operators, the return on investment is clear, but the question is… without offering some kind of incentive, can councils reasonably expect smaller landlords and housing operators to foot the investment bill for these superior waste management systems?
All the encouragement and education in the world won’t help if facilities fall short. A grant scheme to upgrade waste and recycling amenities in the rental sector could provide a sturdy foundation for the rather softer interventions covered in the report. A subsidy initiative like this still couldn’t reasonably be described as a ‘single silver bullet’, but if such spending were to boost recycling, remove leakage issues associated with excess or overflowing bins, improve the street scene, contribute to cleaner air and reduce ongoing costs, it’s surely worth serious investigation, isn’t it?