Steve White, software business development manager at Yotta, looks at how in-cab technology can help drive waste collection efficiencies… saving costs, reducing complaints and leading to swifter resolutions.

Waste and recycling issues have been high up on the national news agenda this year, with strikes and threats of strikes by operatives in several locations, the changes being imposed by China for imports of recycling, discussions on standardising colours of bins and controversy over the regularity of some collections hitting the headlines. It is fair to say that for many UK residents the issue of waste collections is an important one and one that regularly occupies their attention. That’s because the regular waste and recycling collections are one of the most visible services that councils deliver to their residents.

Most households have multiple kinds of containers these days, covering everything from garden and food waste to co-mingled or separated dry recycling. Commutes to work and the school run can be held up by large bin lorries on a regular basis, with dangerous manoeuvres being performed by some impatient members of the public putting crews lives in danger. Visiting the council Household Waste and Recycling Centre is a regular weekend chore for many. In some areas, streets strewn with fly tipped rubbish or bulky items awaiting collection can act as a major source of public dissatisfaction.

Added to this, residents need to interact with the council around waste and recycling; both to gather information about their own collections and to complain about problems related to those collections. All this demonstrates that the standard of environmental services matters to councils and the public.

Delivering Effectively

Councils face challenges in delivering the levels of efficiency the public are looking for and in achieving high-quality two-way communication about issues that arise. A recent poll commissioned by Yotta revealing more than an estimated 35% of the UK public had never complained to the council about an issue related to a waste or recycling collection, highlights a greater underlying issue.

Fly tipping

Missed bins are an age-old problem that just doesn’t seem to go away, whether it’s residents putting the bin out after the collection vehicle has passed or a collection crew simply missing it during their round. However, the bin being missed is not the real issue, resolving most waste and recycling issues should be a quick fix, but with 21% of 1,000 UK residents polled in the survey revealing that their issue(s) on average took over one week to resolve and an unacceptable 8% in total were never resolved, a more efficient method of dealing with issues is clearly required.

While an unemptied bin might seem in some cases a trivial problem, to the resident affected it is an important concern that requires a quick resolution. Councils are focused on delivering this of course but today they are still too often hampered by the legacy systems and approaches they are using.

The age-old disconnected method of phone calls to call centres, information passing through to operational supervisors and eventually reaching collection teams, often with some degree of paper and written communication remains time consuming and prone to misunderstanding or errors. It also presents difficulties in quickly assessing whether the service request is itself a valid one or the resident is at fault; should the request be progressed or halted at source? Updating residents on the outcome, whether and when the service request is going to be completed or not and when it has been completed also suffers in the age-old disconnected approach.

To complete their job effectively, waste collection crews on their rounds need to be able to easily log issues and see the full picture of issues that have been passed to them all in real-time. Back office teams in the council need to know about issues such as contamination or missed collections as soon as they occur if they are to stand any chance of addressing service requests at point of receipt, or even before a resident attempts to report an issue.

Real-Time Solutions

The latest in-cab waste management technology can help ease these issues by providing waste collection crews, operational supervisors and call centre staff with a comprehensive view of any issues in real-time, thereby enhancing communication and collaboration. The software enables administrative teams to map and manage routes for collection crews and log customer enquiries and service requests in real-time. As a result, a missed bin can be reported, logged and a re-collection planned, all on the same day, or a resident can be informed why their contaminated bin wasn’t, and won’t be, collected in accordance with council policies.

Yotta’s recent research also indicated that while 54% of the public’s issues are being resolved by the end of the day after first being raised, only 24% of total issues are resolved on the same day. It’s likely that many of these issues are minor and, in theory at least, easily resolvable. At the moment, though, the speed of response to them is too often hampered by legacy back-office processes that can complicate and delay matters, which in turn creates more work for everyone involved, while reducing the standard of service.

Today’s software can radically change this situation, making council’s aware of waste collection issues in real-time and helping them to resolve problems quickly and efficiently. It is great news for councils – and for residents too, who not only have the satisfaction of having their immediate challenge resolved, but also get a much better impression of the council’s work generally and in particular, its whole approach to public engagement.

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