Municipal Waste Services
Over the last couple of decades, the way in which councils and local authorities collect and dispose of our waste has changed dramatically. Much of this improvement has been driven by legislation and policy development such as the EU Waste Framework Directive.
Municipal waste services across the UK now include the sorting of particular waste streams with much greater levels of recycling than ever before. We have all become used to segregating waste such as plastic, paper, card and glass ready for the weekly pick up, whether that’s in the home or at the office.
The average rate of recycling for councils for 2014/15 was 43.7% with the top performers according to the Let’s Recycle site being:
This is good news considering that the target set for our councils was to reach 33% by 2015, something which most regions have easily exceeded.
Domestic Municipal Waste Services
The disposal of domestic general waste is carried out on a huge scale in the UK. While there are variations in operation and strategy between different councils and boroughs depending on their facilities, most nowadays handle a wide variety of waste. We now get special bins to separate our card, paper, glass and plastic and regular collections that are all taken to central facilities and which we pay for through our council tax.
As with businesses across the UK, councils have a duty of care to handle, transport and dispose of waste according to the waste hierarchy. Most councils have a recycling and waste management policy in place which is under constant review and you can usually visit individual websites to see what kind of service they provide and the sort of materials they handle. Councils will often outsource their waste handling to third parties for materials such as WEEE or hazardous waste.
Most municipal waste services will provide:
- The appropriate bins and containers for particular kinds of waste that are collected at the door.
- Regular collections for waste.
- A central facility where non-standard waste or additional waste can be taken by residents.
- The facilities to deal with the sorting and handling of recyclable waste such as paper, plastic and glass.
- Facilities for handling garden and food waste for composting or anaerobic digestion.
Many municipal waste services also provide facilities for handling what are considered hazardous waste such as batteries and old paint tins that need specialist disposal. The battle for most municipal waste services is how to make this a cost effective operation that delivers real benefits to the local community.
Council waste management plans are driven by the EU Landfill Directive and the consequent legislation to make sure that more waste is sent for recycling and reuse rather than to landfill. Councils have targets set for reducing the amount they send to landfill and failure to meet these can lead to fines. In the UK, most councils have gone a step further than their obligations under EU directives and are currently some way ahead of many other countries.
Many councils have simplified their waste collection processes since the first days recycling was introduced for the average household. This has a led to a significant increase in recycling rates for some areas over recent years. In West Cheshire changing domestic bins, for example, making them easier to use, led to an increase in recycling of some 3,302 tonnes and participation by local householders rose by about 14%.
Permits for Waste Recycling
Most councils have a local recycling facility where additional waste can be taken. This is free to use but if you have a vehicle like a van or trailer then you need to get a special permit from the local authority. This is mainly to stop commercial waste disposal ventures from using the facilities without paying. Normally households get this permit for free but in some areas there is a small cost and a limit to the number of trips that can be made.
Commercial Municipal Waste Services
Most councils nowadays offer competitively priced waste collection services for local businesses though this can sometimes be limited in scope. Many businesses choose to select a private firm for their waste needs, particularly if they have specialist material such as hazardous or clinical waste. Businesses have a duty of care under law to make sure that they dispose of their waste properly, that includes hiring a registered waste carrier and ensuring that they have a disposal plan and maintain a clear audit trail. Whether they do this through the council or a private contractor will depend on a number of factors including price and the regularity of collections.
Find out more about general waste management.