The Recycling of Waste and Blog Posts

Back in August, I wrote a blog post on a project to do away with paper forms at the Community Recycling Centres (tips) within the authority and introduce a digital solution.


The old thing:

Every time someone arrived at a CRC site in a van or with a trailer, they had to fill in a paper declaration to state that their waste was from their own home and not of a commercial nature. The flow of traffic onto the site was slowed by drivers having to fill in one these forms when they reached the front of the queue, creating a bottleneck. Mountains of paper accumulated. Not good for trees. Hard to refer back to if something needed investigating.

The new thing:

People with vans or trailers fill in an online declaration form before they visit. This needs to be done just the once, unless their details change. When they visit a CRC site, the attendants enter their reg number in an online form, which tells them whether the visitor has filled in an online declaration, and if they’ve been banned for whatever reason. Assuming all is okay, the attendants tap a few buttons to indicate which types of waste are being brought to the site, and the visitor can get on with disposing of their waste.

Many different stats are available to management through their dashboard

The Impact

In the office, the management team have to hand up to date, real-time data through their dashboard. From this they can see how many visits each site has had daily, what proportion of these visits is from vehicles that require the completion of the declaration form. Through a variety of reports they can identify visitors exhibiting patterns of behaviour that would indicate commercial activity rather than the disposal of their personal household waste, and follow up with appropriate action.

Visitors who don’t abide by the terms of use could find themselves being denied access to CRCs

The new system has been live since 1st December 2018. It started with a soft launch, and the attendants were lenient if people who needed to complete the online declaration hadn’t yet done so. However, since the 1st February 2019, a harder line is being taken, and customers arriving who need a declaration but haven’t completed one online will be turned away

Thus far, it’s gone fairly smoothly. There have been a handful of minor changes to make:

  • On the form, we have added a few extra buttons for waste types that were lumped together under ‘general’ during development/testing but in fact needed their own categories as they can be indicative of commercial operations getting custom through Facebook.
  • The dashboard has had a few minor tweaks to improve user navigation and to make it easier to analyse and act on suspected commercial activity.
  • Wording on the form and on the web page has been tweaked to include ‘large vehicles’ because some cars are nigh on vans when they’ve got their seats down and have been used by some to evade attention.

There have also been a couple of times when there’s been a blip somewhere and the attendants’ online form has found itself offline for a few minutes, but hey, we’re working agilely and we’ve got a plan B.

The main complaint I’ve had from the service thus far is that their new system is so rich in useful data that they get caught up using it when there’s also other stuff they should be getting on with. I can live with that.

“There are so many positives that the system brings to everyone, management, site attendants, members of the public. The only people who don’t like the system are the rogue traders, which means you have got the system right.” — Sharon Hunt, Operations Director

And with around five thousand visits already where a paper form hasn’t had to be filled in, let’s think of all the trees we’ve saved! (Apologies to manufacturers of filing cabinets, though).