On 2nd Thoughts… Which Collection?

Stuart-Allen-KierIn the first of a  series of exclusive articles for CIWM, Kier’s Stuart Allen looks at commingled vs source segregated collections and says “on second thoughts, are we asking the right question?”
CIWM Journal Online Exclusive



During this year’s RWM show in Birmingham, I visited the local authority theatre to cheer on Kier business development director Mark Hogan, who was a speaker at one of the event’s “big debates”. As could be expected, the “commingled vs. source segregated collections” debate was well attended, with representatives from local authorities, reprocessors, consultancies, think tanks and contractors present.

The pros and cons of various collection methods were discussed by members of the panel and I think it’s fair to say a very British consensus was reached. There is no “one size fits all” approach and the right collection method for a local authority is dependent on a wide range of factors.

For example, where a materials recovery facility (MRF) is nearby, a fully commingled or two-stream process is more often than not the right approach. The absence of a nearby MRF, however, could swing the balance back in favour of source segregated collections. Add to this all the other factors which impact upon the holy trinity of technical, environmental and economic practicality, and you have what amounts to the end of collection methodology ideology. Essentially, whatever increases the percentage of waste recycled, is most cost-effective and works best for residents, is the right choice.

So how can we achieve this “Promised Land”? It occurred to me that all the commingled vs. source segregated noise of the last few years has drowned out another, perhaps more poignant, question:

Competitive Dialogue Or Restricted Procedure?

Traditionally, the restricted procedure route was generally for local authorities with a history of outsourcing, procuring solely for themselves and knowing exactly what they wanted. Competitive dialogue – often perceived as the more costly option – was the preference of larger authorities, newly established inter-authority partnerships and those open to significant service, organisational and cultural change. However, I believe that increasing numbers of local authorities would benefit from going down the competitive dialogue route.

Stuart Allen, Kier – “Essentially, whatever increases the percentage of waste recycled, is most cost-effective and works best for residents, is the right choice.”

The first perceived downside to competitive dialogue is the fact that it’s more expensive, but this is not necessarily the case. The cost of the process will more than likely be off-set by the savings generated through the procurement of a new contract. Plus, these savings are likely to increase if contractors are given the time and freedom to explore the technical, environmental and economic benefits and deficiencies of a range of collection methodologies.

By its very nature, restricted procedure limits the opportunities available for innovation. Competitive dialogue offers many more opportunities to do something radical, such as realising the commercial value of assets including depots and a local authority trade waste book.

And then, on the other side of the table, is the contractors’ risk. Competitive dialogue is the best opportunity contractors have of mitigating this risk – particularly material risk – providing local authorities with the best possible value. The only alternatives are to pass this risk back onto authorities, partly negating the benefits of such a procurement exercise, or to take a chance, and nobody benefits from loss leaders which devalue the market.

So, commingled or source segregated? In my opinion the answer could well lie within competitive dialogue, but I’d be interested to hear what everyone else thinks… please feel free to comment below.

Stuart Allen is bid manager for Kier’s environmental business.

This article is a CIWM Journal Online exclusive and is similar to what you will find every month in the CIWM Journal. To receive this and have access to the archive, you must be a member. Click here to apply for membership now.


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