24 January 2022

Recycling centre systems to remain in place with improvements to customer experience

Recommendations have been agreed by councillors to improve the public’s experience of household recycling centre (HRC) systems following a review of current protocols.

The council conducted a full review of HRCs from August to November 2021, which considered the online booking system; the limit system for vans, larger vehicles and trailers; and the ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) system.

The review measured the pros and cons of current systems and whether they are achieving their original purpose.

At the Infrastructure Services Committee meeting on January 20th, councillors agreed to make improvements to the current booking and limit systems to make them more user friendly. It was also agreed that HRCs would be examined on an individual basis and discussions would continue around any customisations that could be made at each site.

For the booking system, recommended improvements included clearer instructions on the website, autofill details on the booking form to avoid duplication, timeslots available first prior to completion, shorter notice availability of timeslots, and incorporating the system into the myAberdeenshire app.

Recommendations for the limit system included increasing the number of vehicles per timeslot at busier sites and increasing the number of trailers per slot where possible.

Recommendations were also provided to increase public engagement and communication across all platforms to improve customer understanding of the systems.

In addition, the HRC review included an options appraisal for businesses in Aberdeenshire to lawfully dispose of their trade waste, as concerns have been raised that traders may struggle to dispose of their waste due to the systems in place at HRCs. 

The review of trade waste disposal options concluded that most areas in Aberdeenshire are equipped with nearby disposal options, including the three business waste drop-off points that were introduced at waste transfer stations in 2020, and more disposal options will not be introduced.

The main recommendation for this review was to improve communications to traders about the Council’s existing waste drop-off service at the three transfer stations in Ellon, Macduff and Banchory.

As part of the wider review process, a public survey was conducted in which Aberdeenshire residents were encouraged to provide feedback on their experience of the HRC systems currently in place.

Over 4000 responses were received, of which the majority showed significant levels of satisfaction with 43.1% saying they were satisfied to very satisfied, 18.4% with a neutral opinion, and 38.5% saying they were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied. These results were incorporated into the outcome of the review.

The booking system was originally introduced at HRCs in Aberdeenshire as a way of providing physical distancing at the start of the pandemic but has been shown to provide numerous additional benefits such as improved traffic management, especially at the larger, busier sites.

Booking has also evened out usage across the day and during the week so there are controlled numbers of vehicles onsite allowing greater access to skips and reducing the health and safety risk of pedestrian and vehicle interaction.

In April 2021, the limit system was introduced at HRCs to help tackle unlawful business waste. The system restricts access to HRCs for “commercial type vehicles” (i.e., vans and trailers) in an effort to reduce the number of traders using the sites to dispose of their waste. It is estimated to cost the Council up to £500k per year to dispose of trade waste that is deposited unlawfully at HRCs.

Following feedback from the public, the limit system was reviewed and changes were made in August 2021 to improve customer access to the sites.

Cllr Peter Argyle, Chair of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee, said: “There have been many discussions around the recommendations presented and we are happy to support the option of continuing with current systems, with an agreement to look at each household recycling centre on an individual basis.

“Results from the public survey reveal that the booking system has significant benefits for many people. As such, we are committed to making improvements to ensure this system is accessible and user friendly for all customers.”

Cllr John Cox, Vice Chair of the Infrastructure Services Committee, said: “We have agreed to go forward with the current systems, and I am pleased there will be continuing discussions around the potential for flexibility at certain sites and that HRCs will be examined on an individual basis with any necessary improvements being made. I welcome further communication and consideration regarding trade and commercial waste options.”