Paul Willis - 2017 blog posts archive
Waste Strategy Manager
Paul has stopped his weekly postings, but you can still read his stories here ...
Paul Willis is the councils' waste strategy manager. He has been in this role for the last 13 years.
Paul is passionate about keeping our local environment clean and making sure that waste is used as a resource rather than just being thrown away. His role includes waste education and environmental enforcement to help achieve these aims.
You can read Paul's archived 2017 blog posts below - or click here to read his current blogs for this year ...
This will be my last blog from 2017 and it is customary at this time of year to review the last twelve months and celebrate achievements.
For me the most important thing to remember is the day job. We have collected over 3 million refuse bins, approximately 1.5 million recycling bins, 1 million garden bins and 200,000 garden sacks this year. Add to this the countless clinical waste sacks, commercial waste bins, litter bins, dog bins and bulky waste jobs and this adds up to a lot of waste! In fact we have collected nearly 50,000 tonnes this year across all the services.
Each of these waste streams needs to find its way to the right place to ensure that we gain the maximum environmental and economic benefit from it.
Over the course of the year we have also undertaken deep cleans in 120 separate roads across Adur and Worthing ensuring that the gutters are cleared of leaves and that the drains work properly.
We have cleared up behind all the community events this year including the Rotary Fair, Lions Event, Beach Dreams and the seafront fireworks.
These are just some of the everyday operations that are part and parcel of the job that we do.
The main event for us this year was the launch of our new fleet in the summer. This was a great opportunity to showcase what we do and the staff really enjoyed taking part in the various activities that we undertook as part of the unveiling of the new vehicles.
We also took the opportunity to use the vehicles as mobile billboards to advertise our services. The vehicles have already proved their worth with greater reliability and fuel efficiency compared with the ones they replaced.
Our communities continue to be extremely supportive of our work and we are indebted to the hundreds of volunteers that have contributed to keeping our areas clean through community litter picks. This year we supported both the Great British Spring Clean and Great British Beach Clean and both attracted large numbers of people eager to do their bit to help the environment.
We also had a celebration of community recycling champions much earlier in the year and this is a concept that we have continued in the latter half of this year in Findon Valley. Next year we are hopeful of kicking off a similar project in a new area and are currently in advanced talks with a potential community partner.
On social media we have attracted nearly 200 new Facebook and Twitter followers this year, with continually good engagement on our stories concerning recycling hints and tips, changes to services, notifications of deep cleans, issues concerning public toilets and all manner of other issues relating to our services.
We have also added a considerable number of new properties and roads to our services as housing continues to be built across Adur and Worthing. Judging from some of the plans for new housing this is likely to be a recurring theme going forward.
These are just a flavour of some of our highlights in 2017. I have no doubt that 2018 will bring new challenges to our services and I like to think that whatever is thrown at us we will do our best to provide the best possible services that we can to the residents, businesses and visitors to Adur and Worthing.
Merry Christmas everyone - I hope you have a fantastic year ahead!
Photo: Launch of our new fleet in 2017 (with the Mayor of Worthing and Chairman of Adur cutting the ribbon)
Welcome back to another blog on all thing waste.
For all the education that we do concerning waste and recycling in Adur and Worthing nothing compares to a trip to the recycling plant at Ford. People that have the opportunity to visit can learn more in an hour at the plant than any amount of leaflets, social media messages or roadshows. This week we organised a visit for a group of elected councillors to enable them to better understand what can be recycled and to equip them to deal with some of the more straightforward questions that they are asked by their constituents.
The presentation that they were given provided information on where recycling fits into the overall waste management service and why it is important economically to recycle rather than put items into the general waste bin. It is estimated that more than £3 million of perfectly good recycling is currently put into general waste bins. Quite apart from the environmental issues related to putting the material in the wrong bin, there is both lost value and the cost of getting rid of the material.
Watching the material being separated at the plant demonstrates some of the problems of putting the wrong material into a recycling bin. Councillors were able to see first hand what happens with shredded paper getting wrapped around the machinery, or plastic bottle lids falling into the glass line because of their small size. Instantly it becomes clear why we ask for lids to be removed and shredded paper to be dealt with another way (home composting is best!).
Another of the enemies of recycling that they got to see was the plastic bag. Plastic bags themselves are not recyclable in our scheme. Sadly a lot of recycling goes to waste by being contained in a plastic bag. The sorting plant cannot separate plastic bags from the contents and often this material then gets rejected. A lot of these plastic bags come from well-meaning residents who use the bags to carry their material to the communal recycling facilities in blocks of flats and then leave the whole bag in the bin rather than empty the contents. To counter this we have been giving out special bags in recent years that can be used again and again.
Ultimately the key to properly understanding how the material is recycled is to see the sorting process in action. Sorting is carried out through a combination of hand and mechanical means to ensure that clean and high quality material fit for sale comes out of the end of the process.
This is crucial to ensure that the best prices can be achieved for the material, but it also helps with selling the material on during global market slumps in commodity values. Our councillors found their afternoon trip very interesting and thought-provoking and will now become better ambassadors for encouraging recycling as a result.
Would you like a trip to the sorting plant and see what happens to your recycling? Contact us at email@example.com and if we have sufficient demand we may be able to organise a trip for residents to take a look for themselves.
Photo: Elected councillors on a fact finding visit to the Ford Materials Recycling Facility (MRF)
Welcome back to my weekly blog!
If you follow us on our social media accounts you may have caught sight of our pre-Christmas campaign to highlight items that we regularly get asked whether they can be recycled.
Christmas shopping throws up all sorts of items that are either unavailable or rarely bought at other times of the year. We have billed these as 'unusual suspects' and the good news is that most of these items are perfectly recyclable.
What do these 'unusual suspects' look like?
How many of you have an advent calendar on the go? In recent years these have become more popular and include chocolates and even beer. Even though there is additional packaging as a result, they are all completely recyclable. The cardboard outer is not the sum total of what can be recycled - the chocolate tray and foil inside can also be set aside for recycling.
Staying on the chocolate theme, plastic tubs for Quality Street, Roses and Celebrations are probably on most shopping lists (how many last until Christmas!). Every year we are asked whether they are recyclable and the good news is that they are. In fact we also take biscuit tins and tubs too and in these cases it isn't just the containers but also the inner trays that hold the biscuits.
Christmas cards are doing the rounds now and we are often asked about glittery cards. By the time glittery cards find their way to the sorting facility it is fair to say that most of the glitter has long since disappeared, dropping off either in the recycling bin or in the back of the dustcart. Be aware though that not all cards (or wrapping paper) are actually made of paper/ card - some are made purely of plastic. In the case of the latter sadly they cannot be recycled so choose carefully.
When we started taking plastic pots, tubs and trays a few years ago it opened up a new range of packaging found at Christmas that can now be recycled. Christmas pudding tubs, mince pie trays and even the blister packs that pills come in can now be accepted.
We will be running one per day on our Facebook and Twitter accounts and while we acknowledge that we might not manage to cover every eventuality we hope that we will certainly address those most commonly confused items between now and Christmas.
See also: Recycling
Photo: A sack full of Christmas recyclable materials ...
So far in these blog posts I have focused on how we service householders but our services extend to other types of premises too, including local schools, community centres, charities and even Worthing Hospital.
For the business community in Adur and Worthing our services are a vital part of how they operate. Our commercial waste service provides a cost effective, flexible local service that many businesses rely on. Unlike many larger providers we are in a position to deal with changing circumstances quickly and because we are local we can often do so at short notice.
December is a particular case in point. Businesses have a duty of care to make sure their waste is properly contained and is collected by a licensed waste carrier. For most of the businesses we deal with, especially retailers, pubs, cafes and restaurants this is their busiest time of year and this can lead to overflowing bins. Clearly shoppers and visitors to the town don't want to be confronted with messy bins when they come to town and so we try and help them through this period by providing additional collections and even extra bin capacity in some cases to make sure that their additional waste doesn't cause a nuisance. This can normally be done at quite short notice, an especially useful feature if a business is unexpectedly busy during one of the weekends leading up to Christmas. Providing this level of service also reassures businesses that they are fulfilling their duty of care.
Our services are challenged during Christmas week itself and the commercial waste service is particularly stretched. This year all our staff will be working on the three days between Christmas and New Year and the Wednesday in particular looks like it will be a really busy day as we will have several days of waste to catch up on.
The phones will probably be red hot with business owners trying to find out when the crews will be coming and so not only will the collectors be busy but the office staff will be too! Fortunately most businesses are very understanding and know that we will get to them sooner or later.
Getting the level of service right is crucial to our community. We make sure that local businesses stay compliant with the law while the cost effective service helps businesses stay profitable. The combination of flexible and helpful service means that many of our businesses have remained loyal for many years. We hope that the positive customer service that they have received means that they stay with us when billing season comes in the spring!
To find out more or for a non-obligatory quote call our Commercial Waste Team on 01273 263050 or e-mail them on firstname.lastname@example.org. Even if your current contract is not yet due for renewal - let us know the date and will contact you nearer the time.
Photo: Commercial waste collecting bin lorry
There are many aspects to recycling education that I have become accustomed to over the many years I have been involved. The main one is is that the job is never done. With the churn of people that move in and out of our area, confusion, forgetfulness or even laziness we have to keep reminding people about what is recyclable and where they can recycle their waste.
In these days of social media there is an assumption that much of this education can be tackled online through digital means. The more traditional routes of printed media, leaflets and talking with people face to face are considered by many to be old fashioned methods that yield limited results. However, during some work that we carried out in Durrington, Fishersgate and Shoreham during 2015 and 2016 it became obvious to us that while social media is incredibly important, we should not underestimate the power of the other communication methods.
Talking directly with our residents in particular proved to be an enormously powerful way of discovering how well we had communicated recycling messages.
We learned about the issues that confused people, why certain items were not being recycled, barriers that prevented people from recycling and how we could improve services.
These conversations proved to be popular with residents; virtually everyone who opened the door enthusiastically talked to us about their refuse and recycling services and how they personally could help to do their bit. There was some evidence that the people we spoke to then relayed the things they had learned to their friends and neighbours. These community led conversations really helped to increase awareness and changed behaviour beyond anything we could have hoped to do ourselves.
Encouraged by this experience we have recently carried out a door-stepping exercise in High Salvington focusing on an area where we know that recycling participation is already high. The waste analysis carried out a couple of years ago suggested that people who live in an area like this could be encouraged to recycle even more material if they are armed with more knowledge.
The first results of this piece of work are starting to emerge now and we are quite excited to see what impact our conversations will have on this area. We spoke to just over a third of residents on the round and all but a handful were happy to talk to us about their recycling experiences.
It was pleasing to note that more than 90% of the people we spoke to had no difficulties with the service. We also noted that all but 2% of people knew that we could recycle glass jars and all but 3% knew that plastic pots, tubs and trays were recyclable.
Interestingly 14% of residents did not realise foil could be recycled and 20% were unaware that aerosol cans were recyclable! We focused on these four items as the waste analysis suggested that these were the items with the poorest capture rates. Hopefully our conversations will help win more of those materials going forward.
In the next few weeks when weight and sampling data from these areas become available we will see the overall impact of this piece of work. I'll keep you posted about our findings!
Photo: Kate (right) talking with a local resident, giving advice on what can be recycled
Now that Bonfire Night and Remembrance Sunday are behind us most people's thoughts turn to Christmas shopping and preparations for the Christmas season.
We too are gearing up for the festive season, trying to make sure that shifts are covered and the special events leading up to the big day receive extra services where required.
The period leading up to Christmas tends to be one of our quieter times of the year but this changes immediately on our return to work the first day after Boxing Day. For a couple of weeks we face bulging bins, people confused about collection days and Christmas trees cast aside on the pavements awaiting collection.
There is no doubt about it - post Christmas is a frenzy for us at the depot and out on the street!
But it doesn't always have to be a panic post Christmas as there are plenty of steps we can all take to minimise our festive waste ... and it all starts with the shopping. I know I am guilty, despite my good intentions, of buying too much stuff and spending too much money.
Step One: The Tree
This year I am going to make more effort to shop smarter and reduce my waste. First things first - I am going to send e-cards to my friends and donate the money I would have spent on paper cards to charity.
I will then consider buying a growing Christmas tree so that it can be used for more than one year.
Step Two: The Gifts
When it comes to presents I am going to opt for events/ outings or experiences rather than 'stuff'. I am going to ignore stocking fillers on the basis that most of them end up as unwanted items that languish in drawers to get thrown away eventually (often unused). Buying presents that are not just 'stuff' will also cut down on the amount of wrapping paper I will need, but in choosing a type I always go for non-glittery paper and in that way I can be sure it will all get recycled without a problem.
Step Three: The Food
When food shopping is concerned I do have that mostly resolved but I am going to buy less overall. I aim to buy loose food where possible to reduce packaging. My fruit and vegetable peelings go in my compost bin and I plan my meals carefully over the Christmas period just as I would for the rest of the year to prevent spoiled food going in my bin.
As far as other food items are concerned I will make sure to choose items in packaging I know to be recyclable including glass jars, plastic tubs and metal cans. I shall also be squashing my material as much as possible so I can get lot more in my bin. Squashing food cans and plastic bottles in particular is very satisfying too!
Does my Christmas sound a bit hair shirt? I don't think so - just a few minor changes that will reduce my expenditure and certainly reduce the amount of waste I need to get rid of after Christmas. With all that money I save I might just treat myself to something nice in January!
Photo: The aftermath of Christmas - clearing away a single use Christmas tree
The first showing of frost on my car windscreen this morning suggests to me that autumn is finally going to give way to winter in the next few days. As you probably know we have been undertaking deep cleans for the last few weeks to deal with the worst of the leaf fall problem but until the leaves finally all come down it is akin to the painting of the Forth Bridge.
I remember years gone by when the zenith of autumn was before Bonfire Night and by the time Remembrance Sunday came along a week later the trees would be bare. This seemed an appropriately sombre background to this poignant event.
This weekend I went walking in the Weald of Sussex and was surprised to see how many of the leaves were not only still on the trees but in many cases pretty green as well. At this rate I guess some trees will still have leaves on them until Christmas!
We have had a number of questions about why we carry out the deep cleans and how we decide on the roads that we do. For the most part we focus on those streets in Adur and Worthing that have street trees. When the leaves come down they can quickly turn into a slippery mess, especially during frosty or wet weather. Pavements can become treacherous and surface water drains blocked.
Our best chance of removing them quickly and efficiently is to remove the parked cars for a short period of time. We therefore get some help from our friends at NSL who suspend parking and enforce it. In this way we can do the job all at once rather than risk damaging cars or going back several times to work around vehicles.
Sadly during the course of our work we have come across a few residents who think it is acceptable to blow leaves out of their gardens and onto the street. This is illegal, adds to our work burden and also means that those residents are wasting a valuable free resource.
If they were to be bagged up and left for a period of a few months they produce the best kind of compost for their gardens. Alternatively they can be mixed with your fruit and vegetable peelings for a more traditional compost. The leaves will add structure to the compost and will most importantly will enable it to break down more evenly; ultimately producing the most incredible and rich soil conditioner for your garden. If you would like information about how to get a subsidised compost bin please see:
For a list of all the roads that we will be carrying out deep cleansing exercises please see our:
Photo: Clearing the leaves on the streets of Adur and Worthing
1st November 2017: More than litter, how the waste team ensure the smooth running of important events
As we welcome November today you might think that there is nothing on the agenda now until Christmas. But the AWCS team are focused on two big events that take place in our communities this month.
This coming weekend we are gearing up for Bonfire Night celebrations and the thousands of visitors that we are expecting for both the annual fireworks and Tide of Light. This sort of event poses a number of challenges for our service as we have to make sure we have enough staff available to deal with the sorts of issues that are likely to emerge.
We have managed to secure staff to volunteer to work additional hours to ensure that we deal with all the litter bin emptying and dropped litter collecting on the night. These tasks are made all the more difficult by the numbers of people attending for they not only contribute to the need for these services but impede our access to the bins and litter hotspots.
This means we have to employ methods that are far more staff intensive than we would normally have because vehicles cannot easily get near the bins. The sheer volume of rubbish generated means that we will need a dustcart on standby to deal with all the collected waste. Likewise toilet cleaning and car park attendance is critical to try and satisfy demand. The latter is particularly important to ensure that people can head home from the event quickly and smoothly afterwards.
The following weekend we have a rather different event to organise as our communities come together to remember the fallen from the Great War and subsequent conflicts.
Our involvement in these events extends to putting signage out to notify of road closures, placing the barriers and setting out the plans for where the individual units of cadets, scouts and British Legion will stand for the parades.
Before the big day we have teams of people out right up to the last minute to ensure that unexpected matters such as piles of litter, fly-tipped material and graffiti are taken care of and ensure that the area is presented to the best standard that it can be as our mark of respect.
This work continues almost to the point of the parade starting their marches as we have been caught out once or twice in the distant past by the odd bit of graffiti or, as happened one year a great big fly-tip less than 200m from the cenotaph. We all remember that one and it serves as a warning not to be complacent!
After everyone has gone home we hope that they take for granted all the forward planning and work that we do to try and make the events a huge success. We don't really want people to notice us as that is normally for the wrong reasons rather than the right one!
Photo: All Preparations Done and Ceremony Underway
If you thought that we solely focused on the practicalities of picking up refuse and recycling or cleaning the streets you might be underestimating the importance of communication to us.
On a basic level we need to be sure that people understand what they need to do to access our services and communication usually begins with a set of instructions.
We have to be mindful that all householders and businesses are different and there are often circumstances that are unique such as the geographical set up of the building, the number of people residing at the property, whether any of them have special needs or the nature and scale of the business. We are always open to discussions on how to deal with any of these factors and more.
Occasionally we have misunderstandings and in these cases we have a small team of inspectors who will visit to try and resolve matters face to face.
One of my inspectors was out this morning talking to a coffee shop about cleaning up the napkins that blow off their tables and litter the streets. During the course of his day he might talk to a pub about how to tackle the nuisance of cigarette ends dropped outside the premises, encourage a retail shop to increase the number of bin collections due to regular overflows or to a little old lady about how we might help with her bin collections. This type of problem solving communication is very specific.
On a more general level we have to relay instructions to a wide audience especially when it comes to the issue of bin day rollover. Rollover is a system that has been in place for more than 20 years and deals with the sticky issue of how to cope with bank holidays. The basic problem for us is that we do not have anywhere that we can take waste or recycling on a Bank Holiday as local facilities are closed.
In order to keep costs down and not cause a headache for households with a Monday collection (most Bank Holidays are Mondays) we move the collection day by the number of Bank Holidays. It is a system that works well for the vast majority of households but we have to make sure to remind people as it can sometimes cause confusion! We regularly send out printed calendars to advise collection days and this also doubles up as a useful means of reminding people about what they can/cannot recycle.
A few years ago we began using social media and our Facebook and Twitter accounts have proved to be very popular with our communities. These channels allow us to get important information out regarding our services, useful reminders about the recycling we want, rollover days, winter opening hours, where you can buy a garden sack from and countless other issues. We like to have a bit of fun with our social media accounts using pictures and bits of film to showcase what we do or encourage discussions about waste issues.
Ultimately these days every service has to have an eye on how they communicate and we are no different in that regard!
Photo: The AWCS (Adur & Worthing Council Services) Facebook page
One of the most eagerly anticipated celebrations of the calendar for my children is Halloween. They absolutely love it and show no signs of diminishing enthusiasm even though they are in double figure ages now. With half term upon us next week they will be putting their finishing touches to their trick or treat costumes, planning to decorate the garden and of course carve the pumpkins for their Jack-o'-lanterns.
We finally harvested the last of the pumpkins from our garden this last weekend and they are now all lined up ready for carving. We resorted to growing our own as one each never seems to be enough for my children - they love showing off their carving skills and usually have half a dozen or so lined up on our porch way. Buying several from the supermarket got to be quite an expensive business! When carving, the children scoop out all the flesh and seeds and we have a veritable autumn feast from the innards.
I discovered a year or two ago that we are in the minority of households that do this.
Most pumpkins purchased in this country are purely for carving and none of the fruit is used at all. When you stop and think about the numbers involved it is a frightening amount of waste. Approximately 15 million pumpkins are sold each year in the UK and two thirds of these are simply thrown away after Halloween is over, with none of the fruit having been consumed. That adds up to over 18,000 tonnes of pumpkin or enough to provide 360 million portions of pumpkin pie! When you think about the energy, water, time and fertiliser put into a typical commercially produced pumpkin that is a scary amount of ecological footprint for a bit of fun.
It doesn't have to be this way - pumpkin is a versatile vegetable/ fruit and can easily be turned into soup, pie, cake (tastes a bit like carrot cake if you haven't tried it) or a constituent ingredient in curries and casseroles. When roasted, the seeds are particularly delicious and can easily be added to your favourite cereal or eaten as they are.
Don't just carve and dump - give it a second chance!
Once you have used all of the pumpkin the best place for disposal is in your home compost bin. They break down quite readily in that setting, releasing all the nutrients locked up during growth. Unfortunately we cannot accept them in the garden waste bins as any food item is not allowed to be collected this way. If you don't have a compost bin yourself, ask a neighbour who has one - they will probably be pleased to add it to their own bin.
- Home composting and food waste
- Halloween and trick or treating information and advice - including No trick or treating poster
The words clean, dry and loose are like a mantra to me. For so many years I have been trotting out this phrase regarding recycling that sometimes I have to remind myself exactly what I mean by that. The important thing about recycling is that you are effectively dealing with raw materials for new products. That might sound obvious but if you bear that thought in mind you realise why it is important for us as a Council to collect the best quality material that we can.
Let's start with clean
Clean material is by definition material that does not have food residue, grease stains or still contain liquid. You'd be surprised at how often people think it is acceptable to put ready meal containers still full of half eaten curry or lasagne in their recycling! We also get ketchup bottles with significant quantities of sauce in the bottom.
The main problem with this is that residue such as this can contaminate large quantities of paper around it in the dustcart. The problem then spreads out across the load, rendering a large amount of material no longer suitable for recycling. Some material cannot easily be cleaned - pizza boxes or fish and chip wrappers covered in grease are simply not recyclable. At least many of these items are recyclable; sadly we get dirty nappies and other offensive material in recycling bins. These all have to be hand sorted at the recycling plant - a pretty unpleasant job as you can imagine!
Why do we like material dry?
Wet cardboard and paper in particular can be a headache. The fibres in paper and cardboard become brittle when wet and this means that they cannot easily be processed. Also wet paper and card has an unfortunate habit of collecting glass shards, which cannot easily be detached even after the material has dried. Glass is a serious problem for paper mills and they won't take wet paper as a result. Luckily keeping material dry is a lot easier now that we have wheelie bins - you just need to make sure that the material is safely inside the bin with the lid shut.
Keep it loose
A lot of well meaning people, especially those that live in flats, take their recycling to the bin contained in a plastic bag and then toss the bag containing all the contents in the recycling bin. Though we appreciate you making the effort to recycle the Council does not recycle carrier bags and even if we did, unfortunately having mixed up materials in a lump contained in a bag in the recycling means that none of it is available for sending on to the various re-processors for each of the commodities. Sadly all the effort gone into sorting the material from refuse is therefore wasted and the Council has an additional cost of putting it through a sorting process which won't work. Please keep it loose for easier sorting.
Ultimately we want to make the most of the recycling that you help to set aside. By keeping it clean, dry and loose we can get the best value from it both environmentally and financially. Good quality material commands better prices and we can pass the value on to you, the Council Taxpayers as a result.
Photo: Bin containing rubbish with food residue, grease stains or still contain liquid
This is my thirteenth blog so perhaps it is unlucky that I landed on statistics for my subject matter this week. Our service thrives on data collection as we need to have an understanding of how much of each type of waste we collect so that we can allocate the right amount of staffing resource to deal with it. Every month we collect data on refuse, recycling, clinical waste, commercial waste, dog waste (yes really!), quality of recycling material collected, streets cleaned, graffiti incidents attended to, fly-tipping incidents, number of fridges, abandoned vehicles and even the cleaning of toilets.
Collecting all this data into a readily usable format has been honed over many years and means that we can plan our services to take account of the trends and seasonal differences that we have seen over many years. Some of these issues are perhaps quite obvious like when to put extra crews out to deal with the autumn leaf fall or peak season for picking up garden waste.
There are some issues where we have been able to use the data we collect for dealing with less obvious problems. As an example we learned a lot about fly-tipping; where it was likely to be found, the types of people who caused the problem and the types of waste most regularly dumped. All this information helped us to devise a strategy for reducing the numbers of incidents through an intelligence led approach. We provided bins for householders that had previously been putting loose sacks on the street; ensured that businesses that did not have commercial waste contracts became compliant, prosecuted a couple of perpetrators who regularly dumped certain types of waste and worked with landlords to remove opportunities to dump waste at fly-tipping hotspots. All this work enabled us to reduce numbers of incidents by more than two thirds over a five year period.
One of the critical ways that data is vital is when we are planning collection rounds. Over the years we have had to reorganise collection rounds a number of times to take account of the different needs of householders across our district. The popularity of the garden waste scheme in particular can cause disparity between the amount of time required to collect bins in High Salvington for example compared with the tight narrow streets in central Shoreham.
Collecting data is a constant job and the beginning of the month is when we update our records. Every three months we send on this data to national Government for them to include in the national statistics. These are used to formulate future policies so, far from gathering data for data's sake, there is some real meaning behind the number crunching. Now I have finished my blog I am going to deal with September's figures just as soon as the last of the weight tickets are declared!
Photo: Street sweeping to clear fallen autumn leaves
You might think that our job keeping the streets clean and tidy of rubbish and emptying bins every week is a robotic kind of service, not varying very much and in a sense being like a factory production line. If I told you that our crews know more about our communities than I ever will you might be surprised. Yet, it always amazes me how much they actually do know and if I need any intelligence about an ongoing problem the refuse/recycling and street cleansing crews are often who I turn to for advice.
For example when we wanted to resolve the problem of contaminated recycling bins I soon got to learn that one of the main problem in certain blocks of flats was the preponderance of half eaten pizzas being thrown away inside the boxes that the takeaway had come in. I even got to learn that ham and pineapple is the most common flavour of uneaten pizza! (I know many people think that pineapple doesn’t belong on pizza - perhaps this is empirical evidence that backs that argument up).
Localised flooding can be a problem at this time of year caused by leaves from street trees not being cleaned away quickly enough. This is a well known phenomenon and one of the reasons we started doing deep cleans a few years ago. There is another lesser known problem at this time of year though - fallen fruit from crab-apple and cherry trees that get squashed onto the pavement and create a slipping hazard. Our crews developed ‘fruit-watch’ as a result and we have mapped all the fruit bearing trees in our area to make sure that we clean up the mess regularly.
Perhaps where crew intelligence comes in most use is to help householders who cannot manage their bins for whatever reason. Often the first inkling that a householder is struggling is when the bins are not placed out for collection. The crew will record this and if there are other signs at the property that the person is ill or gone away they will raise this with the office to make sure that someone makes further enquiries.
Over the years we have come across people in distress long before any other agency has become involved. Not only are we able to resolve the immediate problem of getting the bins emptied and arranging for an easier collection point but in many cases we have been able to call in further assistance to enable that person to receive the care and attention they need.
Far from being a robotic job our crews provide eyes and ears in our communities and are alert to a whole range of issues. In a world where people know less and less about their neighbours this is a really valuable asset.
Photo: Waste Truck Launch
I was sad to see that my running mate Joanne Clarke called time on her blog last week but smiled at her dog reference as that is a truism that we all know about here.
Any reference to a lost dog on our social media pages gains more audience than any amount of recycling hints and tips or the latest street to be cleaned. I don't personally own a dog but sometimes I feel the need for an excuse to go for a walk round the streets near where I live in Worthing. I go armed instead with a litter picker and bag and collect recycling that has been discarded by the small number of anti-socials that think it is acceptable behaviour. Within an hour I can normally fill my bag with plastic bottles and cans that are then put in my blue-topped bin when I get back.
While I am out and about people give me strange looks but I have also had the odd word of encouragement. Although it is disheartening to see how much litter is discarded on our streets (and Adur and Worthing is not alone in that respect) I am not the only resident taking action against it. There are increasing numbers of people who have taken it upon themselves to either do the lone ranger thing like me or muster themselves into groups to take care of particular areas. These volunteers are invaluable in looking after our local area and certainly provide a lift to our own cleansing services.
While there are too many to thank individually I am going to give a shout out to a few groups in particular. In Worthing at the weekend Transition Town Worthing carried out a beach clean under the auspices of the Great British Beach Clean. The group collected information about the nature of waste found on the beach to input into the national database organised by the Marine Conservation Society. Storm Ministries also carry out regular litter picks in Worthing Town Centre, work that is always done with good humour and enthusiasm.
In Lancing, the delightfully named Keep Lancing Lovely group are going from strength to strength. Not only do they carry out litter picking activities on the beach every month but a number of them also turn out weekly (and sometimes more often!) to keep Monks Recreation Ground tidy. Without this volunteer help the park would quickly become more littered and, as all waste managers will tell you, litter has a nasty habit of breeding if left unchecked.
While we all do our best to tackle littering we are dealing with the symptoms and not the cause. I rather hope that eventually peer pressure will tackle the problem as no end of campaigns have had limited impact over the years. Our volunteers are showing our communities that we shouldn't have to put up with littering and hopefully that message will finally get through to the people that cause the problem.
Photo: Litter superheroes - Paul Willis with former Mayor Cllr Sean McDonald and Lesley Heath
Hello and welcome back to my weekly blog.
Regular readers will know that I love a good recycling-based stat. So, how many of you knew that about five per cent of the average general waste bin consists of textiles?
When you add that to the waste from all the other districts in West Sussex that adds up to a colossal £1.4m of disposal fees for dealing with a commodity that shouldn't even be in the general waste bin!
There have never been more options for getting rid of textiles.
Good quality second hand clothing is the lifeblood for many charity shops, realising some good income. Charity sacks for home collection are regularly delivered (perhaps too regularly some might say!) through doors and these are also a good way of donating to your favourite charity.
Be careful that the destination is bona fide though - there are still instances of textiles being donated to unscrupulous companies purporting to support good causes but actually do no such thing.
Another means of disposing of textiles is through what we call bring sites (textile banks). There are a number of these throughout Adur and Worthing.
The Councils officially supports banks that donate money to local causes through the Worthing Community Chest in Worthing, the Chairman of Adur's Charity and also the Salvation Army in Adur.
In the case of the banks run on behalf of the Chairman's charities and the Worthing Community Chest they generate vital income that is then recirculated throughout the local community, creating opportunities for people that otherwise would not exist.
Over the past year as we have highlighted this work through our social media channels we have seen donations increase dramatically.
In this scenario everyone is a winner - the textiles are kept out of landfill; they go on to be recycled or reused, helping improve local recycling rates and in the process they generate money for our communities. I would like to thank everyone who has generously donated this year.
While people are used to the idea of good quality clothing being donated what seems to be less well known is that even damaged and worn textiles that are not fit for resale can be donated too.
Ripped, threadbare and worn clothing still has some recycling value, either for its material value or to be used in the rag trade. Some clothing not suitable for resale but that is still wearable can also be shipped to the developing world for reuse.
We don't just take clothes either. Shoes, blankets, towels, curtains and bed sheets are all suitable for the textile bank. We don't want duvets or pillows though thank you - these still cannot be recycled. Some animal charities take them for re-use. Please check locally.
Let's make textiles win for our communities - we can reduce the amount that we throw away therefore reducing the burden of disposal fees from Council Tax. We then generate income that we can keep for local good causes. This has the potential to be a massive good news story!
Photo: Textiles recycling bank - for clothes and shoes
Every so often the Council undertakes a waste composition analysis.
This provides useful information about the nature and quantities of waste that is produced by householders and enables the Council to respond to any changes.
The nature of waste has changed significantly since the war. No longer do we have dustman, since for the most part households do not produce significant quantities of dust that were once associated with solid fuel heating.
In the modern world packaging is a significant part of what we now throw away. Most products are shipped significant distances these days and without robust packaging there would be a lot more spoilage (and therefore waste). Most packaging is recyclable if we can persuade people to ensure it gets in the right bin.
Another reason for analysing waste is that packaging and buying habits change. In recent years we have seen the phenomenon of 'light-weighting' where items such as bean cans, drink cans, newspapers, wine bottles, cereal boxes etc have reduced in size, shape and weight.
Ironically we have also seen some items get heavier, especially with the increasing popularity of Prosecco and other sparkling wines.
The average weight of wine bottles has increased significantly as a result. Changing packaging specifications can considerably reduce production and transport costs but it also means that the material is less valuable when resold. This affects the financing of waste management and needs to be planned for where possible.
Sorting machinery may need to be changed; new buyers for the material sought and even new opportunities for introducing new materials where markets dictate.
In the last waste analysis carried out in 2015 we were able to determine that approximately 20% of the contents of the average general waste bin was perfectly good recycling already accepted in the system.
It was heartening to note that nearly 95% of households were recycling something. When it came to paper and glass it was clear that these items were readily understood as we were capturing most of these.
Capture rates of other materials, especially the more recently introduced ones such as foil, aerosols and plastic pots tubs and trays were much lower. We have therefore focused our attention on these 'unusual suspects' for campaign materials in the last year. When the next waste analysis is completed later this year we'll be able to measure how successful our efforts have been and where we need to direct our attention going forward.
Photo: Paul Willis with a wheelie bin full of drinks cans
In the last couple of weeks I have spent a lot of time looking at planning applications.
For someone as naturally nosy as myself this is a very enjoyable part of my job as I get to see proposed developments quite early in the process and try to imagine how they will look once finished.
The main issues that I look at when presented with a planning application are the bin capacities proposed and in particular the accessibility to the bins.
Building in a collection system that works well is crucial at the planning stage so that residents have a user friendly system to work with once the development is completed.
Some sites are quite difficult as there is no obvious place for collection and/ or not enough provision is planned for. This can mean some difficult discussions with developers who clearly want to maximise the value of their scheme.
Bin stores don't earn money and are rather taken for granted. Even where resolutions are made during the planning stage we have had some instances where bin stores have not been built as promised and this has led to a lot of complications.
We had one example of a bin store ending up as an extra bedroom in a flat and this only became apparent when piles of bin bags appeared outside the building in an adjacent alley. One prosecution and a rebuilt bedroom later we had a very expensive bin store reinstated.
Blocks of flats tend to be the most difficult; some developers try to put bin stores at the back of the development out of sight.
This may be the most visually pleasing place to put them but the architect has not thought about how the bins can be reached. Moving an 1,100-litre bin full of rubbish is not an easy task and their weight ensures that normally two people are required to move them.
Moving a bin any more than 25 metres is not acceptable for manual handling reasons and this sometimes means that a plan has to be completely redrawn in order to accommodate this need.
Housing estates don't usually present a problem in terms of where we site individual bins, for most of the households will be provided with a standard wheelie bin service.
In these cases I focus more on the access for the vehicle. With a dustcart being more than ten metres long the turning circles are quite wide as you might imagine.
You'd be surprised at how tight some of the turns developers expect us to make. There have been several examples where dustcarts would have to drive across people's gardens in order to get around the estate!
Ultimately if we can get things right with the developers at the planning stage we can ensure that new residents get a user friendly service for years to come without causing any headaches!
Photo: Operative loading a wheelie bin onto the back of a refuse truck
Over the past few months my team has been looking at more inventive ways to deal with smoking-related litter. Even in these days when vaping seems to be ever more popular and the number of smokers continues to decline, cigarette ends are the most littered item in the UK. Some estimates suggest that 120 tonnes of cigarette ends are discarded as litter every day in this country - that's the equivalent weight of five of our dustcarts!
Cigarette ends pose a unique problem compared with other litter types. It sounds obvious, but they are on fire! For the smoker, the immediate thought is to extinguish the fire before disposing of it and the quickest way is to stub it out underfoot and walk away. Some more responsible smokers may actually stub it out on the top of a litter bin, but it often stays there, not even making it into the bin. It then blows away with the result that it becomes litter.
When the smoking ban was implemented in 2007, the litter associated with cigarettes increased significantly. Interestingly at that time, many smokers didn't even realise that their cigarette ends were litter and the Government had to issue clarification that included them in the legislation (and chewing gum too, but that's a different story). The areas outside pubs, restaurants and other licensed premises quickly became cigarette end hotspots and, over the years, we've worked with those premises to minimise the problem.
Cigarette ends are difficult to clean up. Their small size ensures they get stuck in cracks in the pavement, wedged into gutters and gather in detritus around traffic islands, especially at road junctions where it's difficult to clean safely. We've invested in a specialised piece of equipment that can tackle cigarette ends, a cost borne by council taxpayers.
Ultimately we want to ensure that smokers deal with their litter appropriately. Over the years since the ban, we've provided dedicated bins, personal cigarette disposal pouches and even issued fixed penalty notices for littering to get the point across that this type of behaviour is unacceptable.
The latest initiative to get the message across is the ballot bin. Smokers are encouraged to dispose of their cigarette ends by using them to vote for one of two options. We've started by asking whether Brighton & Hove Albion will survive in the Premier League this season. It's a fun way to get across a very serious point. Hopefully it will reduce the amount of littering next to the taxi rank in Chapel Road, Worthing, where it's currently located. Got an idea for a future question? I'm all ears!
Photo: Cllr Diane Guest with Ballot Bin
A few years ago during a conversation with our Cleansing Manager, we mused on how much easier it would be to clean the streets without parked cars in the way.
As I had good relations with our Parking Services team, I thought I would ask whether we could do this and was very pleased when they agreed. We decided to kick off with a few streets to see whether the concept would work and the idea of the Dirty Dozen, chosen from nominations by the public, was implemented.
This simple idea was so effective that soon we were receiving nominations from all over. The original dozen has now grown to a year-round programme of more than 120 streets across the district.
It's unthinkable now that we could deal with this perennial problem in any other way and I'm indebted to the NSL parking team and local residents for helping us make this happen.
The idea of the deep cleans is to use additional machinery and cleaning staff to carry out mechanical sweeps of the street and to remove as much detritus from the gutter as possible to improve drainage and minimise localised flooding.
The busiest time of the year, as you might expect, is during the autumn when we have a comprehensive programme targeting streets with a lot of trees. The sight of a full crew in operation is quite impressive and I’m always amazed by the results they achieve.
See also: Full programme of deep cleansing
If you'd like to nominate a street, please contact us on:
Photo: Clearing the autumn leaves in the street
If left unchecked, fly posting can quickly blight neighbourhoods.
Fly posting is the placement of adverts in places without the permission of the land or building owner and is a criminal offence.
It also has a tendency to breed as event organisers exploit places where they already see posters in place. One poster in a location can quickly spread to a dozen, especially if they are plastered on the fronts of derelict shops or on highway structures. On that basis, my team takes steps to quickly remove them if they appear.
Another problem with fly posts is that although organisers are often quick to put them up, they are often left in position long after the event and allowed to deteriorate. By removing them quickly, we deter new posters, remove any benefit that advertisers seek to derive from their 'free' space and send out the message that this practice is not tolerated locally.
This policy has meant that Adur and Worthing are largely free of the clutter on the public highways that you might see in other districts.
If you're organising a community event, there are other ways to advertise that don't require fly posting. Interest in large community events is often driven these days by social media, and a decent campaign to advertise an event is usually cheaper and can look more professional than some scruffy posters stuck to pedestrian railings.
If you really feel the need to advertise on the public highway, there are legitimate ways to do so with permission from West Sussex Highways Department. They have a small number of risk-assessed locations where they will allow banners to be placed to advertise non-profit community events.
See also: Report fly posting
Photo: fly posting on railing at a pedestrian crossing
Over the past few years the number of abandoned vehicles needing to be towed away by the Councils has dramatically reduced and, thankfully, this is a menace that no longer blights our streets.
The reduction is the result of a number of factors:
- The tightening of the rules of registration
- The scrap value of cars, and
- The number of available outlets that will accept end-of-life vehicles.
Although typically Adur & Worthing only remove five to 10 cars per month, we still receive three times that number of reports from members of the public.
Each case needs to be investigated to determine whether the vehicle has an owner. In some cases, these investigations fail even the most basic of tests. We've even had reports of expensive sports cars being abandoned!
There's no legal definition of an abandoned vehicle - each case is treated on its merits – and to establish whether a vehicle is truly abandoned my team will consider a number of factors.
The first port of call is to determine whether there is a registered keeper and we’ll make contact where this is the case. Other checks are made, including road fund licence status, overall condition of the vehicle and whether it's been left in a dangerous location.
A vehicle doesn't necessarily have to be powered - we do additionally deal with caravans and trailers.
Where a combination of factors suggest abandonment, the Councils will remove it from the public highway. Reports of scruffy cars parked outside their addresses, vehicles that come and go regularly or those just out of tax are not signs of abandonment and investigations are not likely to lead to removal.
Photo: Abandoned vehicle
Hopefully by now you will have seen that we have our new fleet out and about. For our service, this has been tremendously exciting, probably akin to the feelings you have when you get a new car!
What you may not realise though is that we have four different types of dustcart, all designed to do a slightly different job.
The largest number of vehicles are what we call twin packs (13 in the fleet). These have two compartments at the back and are designed to collect refuse (in the larger half) and garden waste. The split of the vehicle is 65/35. When either side of the vehicle is full, it tips off at a waste transfer station in Lancing. The two tipping areas are separate at the transfer station to ensure that the waste goes to the correct onward destination.
Refuse is currently taken for further processing at a plant near Horsham and the garden waste is composted near Henfield. We adopted this style of service when Adur and Worthing joined forces to ensure that we were able to offer a comprehensive garden waste service that satisfied customer demand.
The recycling trucks are single pack (eight in total), with the contents of all blue topped bins going in the same truck. Again, at the transfer station, the contents are tipped into a separate area for onward transport to the sorting facility at Ford.
We also have three commercial waste vehicles designed to take bigger refuse bins from local businesses.
Finally we have a small twin pack vehicle to deal with town centre locations where streets are narrower. This vehicle collects refuse and recycling in two compartments to minimise the journeys we need to make.
As you can see, we thought very hard about the types of vehicle that would be needed to deliver the best services for our communities and not all dustcarts are the same.
Photo: Three of the different types of trucks, from left, commercial waste, recycling and a twin pack lorry for household and garden waste
More of us are picnicking than ever before but the days of the wicker basket, food wrapped in spotted handkerchiefs and the trusty Thermos flask are long gone.
In fact, a good many of us don't even make our picnics now, we just go to the shop and buy them. The convenience of this cannot be understated but what about the waste?
The disposable picnic business is big business but so is the waste generated. Whether you're a traditional sandwich picnic kind of person or a fast food one, food on the go is just about the most packaged you can buy.
The big problem with this packaging is that it often takes up a large volume but weighs very little, and in busy locations existing bins are inefficiently used or simply can't cope.
We can all do our bit to reduce loadings on litter bins and keep our public spaces enjoyable for all users. A good proportion of packaging - especially drinks cans and bottles, sandwich wrappers, clear plastic containers for pastry products, fruit punnets and juice cartons - can all be recycled, so please take them home with you and put them in your blue topped bin.
Larger pieces of waste can be broken up or squashed to make sure they completely fit in the bin. Often litter bins are blocked by bulky items placed at the top, leaving big void spaces underneath.
Finally, please don't be tempted to leave bags by litter bins. Seagulls are voracious predators of plastic bags and the bag can be shredded and the contents scattered in minutes, causing a huge localised litter problem. A little housekeeping can help us all enjoy our public spaces.
Photo: Paul Willis with a wheelie bin full of tin drink cans
Hi. I'm Paul Willis, the Councils' Waste Strategy Manager, and protecting the environment is something I feel passionately about.
In this modern world, we have got used to generating waste and most of us take it for granted that it will be taken care of.
I first became interested in waste more than 20 years ago through my weekly trips to the bottle bank, which gave me the opportunity to reduce the amount of rubbish I threw away each week.
As time went on and the number of commodities that could be recycled increased, I wanted to see how I much I could reduce my bin by. Now I only throw away about half a bin bag for my family of four each week, but with a bit more determination I could reduce this even more.
The cost of waste management is far larger than it should be. Every tonne of waste disposed of costs approximately £130, while recycling generates £60. This differential of nearly £200 soon adds up when you consider that Adur and Worthing dispose of 35,500 tonnes per year (the equivalent weight of 1,500 of our refuse lorries!) and that at least 20% of that could have been recycled.
Moving this recycling from the grey top bin to the blue top bin is a key challenge as we have the potential to generate nearly £1.5 million to spend on crucial services.
Even better than recycling is not producing waste in the first place. One of the ways we can all help with this is planning our shopping trips better. I go armed with a shopping list and stick rigidly to it.
I found that I spend less (good for me) and waste less (good for all of us too!). I try not to be tempted by a special offer for something that I don't need. Have a go and think before you throw. You'll be amazed at the effect on your general waste bin.
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