Transforming The “R” In HWRC

EMMA-CLARKEIn the second part of our series on HWRCs, Emma Clarke, senior consultant at Resource Futures, considers the practical aspects of HWRC re-use.
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Re-use is the new recycling! And if you can, it makes sense to collect items at Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs). Re-use is one aspect of HWRC management that is becoming more and more popular. Segregation of items at HWRCs for re-sale on or off-site does occur. There are a number of successful third sector partnerships and a few schemes operated directly by local authorities or contractors using their own re-use channels.

Re-use tonnages can be between one tonne per fortnight and three tonnes per week per site, and can account for approximately one percent of total site throughput at larger sites; contributing to recycling rates. Incomes generated can be significant and there are social benefits that evidence the Social Value Act. Items segregated can include toys, bric-a-brac, small furniture, bikes and small electrical items (if they can be PAT tested). Revenues can exceed material recycling values, for example for bric-a-brac, some WEEE, vintage clothing and antiques.

Partnerships between the site contractor/council and the third sector work particularly well. Re-use organisations and charities know the market and often have retail experience. So a good starting point is to research local Third Sector Organisations (TSOs) and invite them to discuss the opportunities. If there is a local Re-use Forum, this will be a good place to open a dialogue. If no TSO is interested, there are commercial routes. Indeed, for some contractors this may be preferred, as it can result in a profit-share with the sub-contractor. However, it is unlikely to provide the social benefits of working with a TSO, such as training and volunteer placements and the supply of items to those who need them.

When the partner and preferred collection and sales options are determined, identify ALL the costs, including staff incentives and transport off-site, if necessary. To segregate items, additional staff are not required and site operatives can usually include re-use in their existing roles. If there is a large shop onsite, the partner organisation is likely to resource it and dedicated staff can improve performance. In reality, to achieve high re-use, a dedicated onsite shop is best. This requires one or one-and-a-half Full Time Equivalent staff to achieve its full potential. Evidence suggests the sales value can cover this, but only if the markets are well understood.

Issues to think about include:

  • Existing traffic issues. Persistent queuing could be exacerbated if more visitors are expected.
  • Parking. Large shops onsite need dedicated parking spaces.
  • Van bans. It may not be possible to transport bulky items onsite for donation and offsite when purchased without them! These limit what can be re-used.
  • Lack of space. Consider having a container only for off-site re-use. If there is a large HWRC in the network, items could be collected and transported to a shop there.
  • Re-development. Even if you do not plan to introduce re-use now, if a site is to be re-developed or newly-built, include space for containers or a shop.
  • Legal definition of waste.

Ideally, the waste wouldn’t arise in the first instance, so discuss with waste strategy colleagues whether there is a waste prevention/minimisation strategy in place. If not, add it to their ‘to do’ list!”

To discuss HWRC re-use email Emma here.

Next week’s article will concern commercial waste at HWRCs…

To read the first in the series of HWRC articles, from Eric Bridgwater, click here


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