Skip to the content

Improving waste collection with geolocation data


Industry voice: Standardised addresses will be a crucial tool in meeting future demands for collecting and recycling waste, writes Nick Chapallaz, managing director of GeoPlace

The Government has bins in its sights – and this has implications for how local authorities use their geolocation assets.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove has launched a major rethink of waste collection and recycling, with a consultation focused on reducing plastic pollution, increasing recycling and ensuring that bin collections are regular and reliable.

It points towards rising expectations of how councils will manage their waste collections, intensifying the need for them to do so efficiently while maintaining high levels of customer service. This is going to demand that they have a full understanding of the sources of waste within their boundaries, taking in homes and businesses and all types of buildings.

Geolocation data is going to play a crucial role in making this possible, notably through the use of an asset already in the hands of each council in the country – the Local Land and Property Gazetteer (LLPG). This is the standardised address database, maintained by the local authority, that includes a range of information – geographic coordinates, property classification, alternative addresses – and can be used for many purposes that require details about specific locations.

In the case of waste collections, this is important in helping to plan routes, so it can take into account blocks of flats and houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) in which the volumes are going to be heavier and will take longer to collect. It can support crews in responding quickly to reports of missed or excess collections. And it can help in providing the facilities to improve recycling.

Raising game

There are numerous examples of how local authorities have used their LLPGs to raise their game in collecting and managing waste.

Some strongly reflect the benefits of operational efficiencies, such as South Staffordshire Council’s project to optimise its collections. This involved the distribution of 42,500 new wheelie bins, a full evaluation of the existing collection routes and the development and implementation of 150 new ones.

In the first phase, the council drew on its LLPG to identify properties excluded from receiving bins – such as communal dwellings – and created maps for deliveries of the new ones. The second phase involved the mapping of new collection routes, drawing on data from the first phase along with other information such as where assistance was needed, disposal sites and participation rates, all integrated into the route optimisation software.

Working with the waste contractor, South Staffordshire developed 150 routes with distinctions between non-recyclable, recyclable and organic waste, and identified the two-thirds of properties for which a collection charge applied. It also made the information available through an interactive tool, enabling residents to review their collection routes.

The result was 99.7% of the new bins were delivered across the district within four weeks, and the council achieved annual efficiency savings of £380,000 projected over seven years.

Colchester Borough Council has also achieved operational efficiencies, using the unique property reference number for local properties – an intrinsic feature of the LLPG – to devise 150 new collection routes. The structure of the gazetteer enabled it to create routes for proposed new housing developments, thereby future proofing the new arrangements.

Online reporting tool

Customer contact can also be improved through harnessing the LLPG. Northumberland County Council has developed an online tool for residents to report problems such as missed bin collections. It includes a digital map to support staff, drawing on the LLPG for an address search and zooming to the required location.

The tool has supported a big shift towards residents reporting problems through the council’s website, which has generated financial savings, and provided efficiencies in the back office where staff no longer have to link reports to locations.

The capacity to boost the availability of real time information is important. The London Borough of Harrow has made the LLPG a central features of its waste management and recycling operation, using it for a daily refresh of the data held in its call centre CRM and the mobile wireless terminals of the collection vehicle cabs.

It is also integrated into a route optimisation module to calculate the most efficient routes, and the My Harrow web portal, which is linked back to the waste management system for scheduling bin collections.

The result of this has been a lot more real time information for everyone, a reduction of 200 waste related calls to the contact centre per week, and a big drop in complaints from the public.

The gazetteer can also support environmental initiatives. Oxford City Council has used it to underpin a software system for recycling, helping to identify HMOs – of which there are many in a city with tens of thousands of students – for placing the right number of food caddies. This ensured that a lot more food waste went into the caddies then on to recycling rather than landfill.

The ongoing maintenance of the caddies was also made easier by having the gazetteer and the HMO licensing systems within the same software; and the council reported improvements in its route optimisation, finding missed bins and reducing the turnaround time for bulky waste collection from five to four days.

Its operations technical adviser for waste and recycling, Steve King, said: “Having access to gazetteer data has provided us with the tools needed for carrying out and improving the services we offer, and ensured the information we are using is both up to date and highly dependable.”

Best practice

These are just some of the examples of local authorities using the LLPG to greatly improve their waste collection and recycling, and it is important that they are all prepared to learn from each other, sharing best practice in the cause of new efficiencies and better customer service.

It’s a cause to which GeoPlace is heavily committed, promoting the achievements through its published case studies and awards; but councils need to ensure their LLPGs are fit for purpose by devoting resources to their continual updating and the provision of high quality data.

Whatever comes of the Government’s consultation, councils will be expected to achieve even more in waste collection and recycling. The LLPG is a major asset in making that possible.

Over the past 10 years, GeoPlace has collated a number of case studies which show how standardised addressing helps to increase recycling and ensure that bin collections are regular and reliable. You can find them here:

Register For Alerts

Keep informed - Get the latest news about the use of technology, digital & data for the public good in your inbox from UKAuthority.