One of the fastest growing towns in the UK, Kettering appears in the charter of 956 AD granted by the Saxon king Edwy. It is historically known worldwide for its boot and shoe industry, although this has diminished considerably since the 1970s. There is good news in Kettering though; our refuse service won the APSE Performance Networks Best Performer Award 2015. Both myself and the crew are delighted at this achievement, and we’re happy to share our trade secrets with other APSE members.
Kettering Borough Council delivers a waste and recycling collection service to 43,000 homes across four towns and 28 villages of varying sizes. These consist mainly of urban developments which include terraced, ex-corporation, council and new-style large housing developments. Our refuse service is part of the Northamptonshire Waste Partnership, which is made up of six authorities, including Kettering. The partnership shares the Northamptonshire Waste Education and Energy Team, who promote national campaigns, assist with recycling rollouts, and help with dedicated authority campaigns. We attend school educational assemblies and curricular lessons with a fully-equipped educational bus, in order to help children in Northamptonshire to reduce, reuse and recycle waste, and to become more energy efficient. These projects are vital to instilling recycling at the heart of our community.
As for our own service, working out of one depot, the Kettering Borough Council waste team consists of 44 members of staff operating seven rounds. The team provide the waste collection service, and are therefore the only council team to visit every property in the borough weekly. Each crew is assigned between 1,500 and 2,000 properties per day, walking an average of 14 miles per day, and emptying over 4.4 million receptacles per year. We’ve recognised that round optimisation is key to ensuring that the quality of the collection service is maintained; we are currently working on round re-alignment to cover the next 5 years, which will be regularly reviewed.
We work to a two-week schedule, where dry recycling and green waste is collected on alternate weeks to general waste. This gives every household in the borough the opportunity to recycle at the kerbside, though we also offer recycling at 32 bring bank sites. In addition, the team provides kerbside bulky and white goods collections, weekly clinical collections, and also operates a commercial waste service.
In summer 2013, we acquired a new fleet, giving us the much-needed opportunity to revisit and improve the current recycling scheme. We moved from kerbside boxes that were sorted by the household to a co-mingled system, and took the opportunity to replace the old 55 litre blue boxes with 240 litre wheeled bins. Although, paper remains source-separated due to it being a high commodity. Both streams are collected using a 70/30 split-bodied vehicle.
We offer additional recycling containers free of charge to all residents, as well as flexibility within our fleet to accommodate increases in peak seasons. We can interchange vehicles and the type of collection at times like Christmas, where we are able utilise both staff and vehicles to accommodate the extra collection of dry recycling, and manage it without using additional vehicles.
Residents have embraced the new recycling scheme, and Kettering’s recycling rate has increased from 45% to 48%. This continues to grow, with recent quarterly reports of over 50%, despite the fact that we do not run a food waste collection. Alongside this, the popular green waste service remains completely free; in January 2015, we removed a ‘second garden bin charge’ in line with the dry recycling receptacles. This has further improved our aim to capture all possible recyclables, and helps alleviate the amount of waste going to landfill. Also, we offer a free Christmas tree collection service, collecting around 1,800 real trees per year, which, again, improves the green waste we capture over the winter months.
Keeping on top of contamination is the key to ensuring that we capture quality recycling. To do this, we receive regular reports from our material recycling facility, and we continually monitor our crews and households via non-collection tagging. Going ever further, we have also introduced a DIY waste composition, in which random collections of up to 3 tonnes are analysed with a focus on targeting the types of contamination found. We do this with both dry recycling and domestic waste in a bid to ensure that we are delivering the right messages to the public.
We fully believe that our crews are the key to high performance and excellent service delivery; our crews operate a 4-day week, working 9.25 hours per day over 5 collection days, giving us the flexibility to cover sickness and holidays by using staff on their non-working day. This keeps continuity within the team, as all our staff are familiar with the daily rounds and the expected standards of service.
We actively encourage career progression within the department by offering driver training to loaders, driver trainer qualifications, and other recognised industry qualifications. All staff receive ‘tool box talks’ four times a year, which cover health and safety, reversing procedures, manual handling/lifting and general operational procedures that includes clinical practices (such as handling needles). Also, we were one of the first authorities to produce an in-house reversing training video, which has been viewed, and the practices adopted, by many APSE authority members. Our staff also receive a bi-annual one-to-one crew assessment in the field.
I would say that our continued success is down to best practices, a continually improving performance, open communication, and keeping staff involved with what we are doing to ensure our ongoing commitment to provide an efficient service. We actively participate in both the APSE Waste Management Advisory Group and in APSE’s Performance Networks. Having the ability to share advice and experiences from waste experts, to learn from others face-to-face and through network queries, has contributed towards improving the way in which we do things, and was proven by Kettering winning Refuse Best Performer 2015.
We aren’t saying we’re experts – we may not be doing anything different from other authorities – but we’ve been smart and used performance data well, offering us the opportunity to monitor what we do, benchmark ourselves against other authorities, learn from best practice, and not be afraid to change the way we do things.
Ultimately, making small changes and having a positive, open attitude, has made an enormous difference to our service; we won the Performance Networks award because we were in the top quartile for 8 of the 9 performance indicators, showing that consistency, dedication and benchmarking are fundamental to success in this service area.
Dela is happy to speak to other local authorities about the refuse work Kettering does. To contact her, email DelyeneMoreland@kettering.gov.uk or call 01536 534461