Resident satisfaction levels with local waste management can be a barometer for satisfaction with their council, and the tip experience may be the only face to face contact many members of the public have with ‘the council’. Provision of an efficient and easy to use waste and recycling facility(ies) will also play a role in keeping down the cost and negative impact of flytipping on the local area. However, given the pressure of funding cuts and the need to separate waste in order to recycle more, councils are introducing measures around tip use that are highly unpopular with the public, like charging residents for DIY waste, refusing entry to people who cannot prove they live in the area, or turning away people arriving in vans – including vans hired for a house move. In these situations emotions can run high: in February 2018, Oxfordshire County Council announced that workers at its seven tips would be equipped with body worn cameras to protect them from the ‘worrying amount’ of abuse they face. Given this context, councils should be doing all they can to publish and communicate clearly rules that apply to use of the local tip.
English county councils only
Council tips last featured in our surveys in 2015-16, when we tested counties on the task Find opening times for council tip from a mobile device. The survey was well done, with 78% being rated at three or four stars, ie good or very good. This time the proportion of sites that score three or four stars has dropped to 63%. The poorer scores this time are certainly due to a more challenging question set. Instead of asking Is clear information provided about waste that is accepted at this site?, this time we asked whether information had been published about specific items that can prove problematic, like paint, and car batteries. We also asked whether sites were clear about whether residents might turn up at the tip in a van. Now that many councils are limiting what can and can’t be brought to the tip, and by whom, councils need to be absolutely clear about where they are on the spectrum from restriction free to tightly controlled.
Check ‘coverage’ to see if your council has been surveyed. Go to councils page and select your council. Look for link to task report under 2017-18 results
Provide a good or very good online service based on this survey
Better connected rankings
*Discrepancies in the figures are due to rounding off
Starting from Google, 100% of searches on ‘XYZ Council tip’ found the council recycling pages and many took people directly to the main page for recycling centres.
For people who have not been before, the next most important issue is where the tips are located. Only 74% provided this information through an easy to use map or postcode lookup. Sometimes councils had tips marked on a ‘find my nearest’ facility located on the home page but not linked to from relevant places on the waste and recycling pages. We also found at least one case where there was a postcode lookup - but not linked to from the list of recycling centres.
In all Better Connected surveys we are looking for key, high level information to be offered on landing pages for high volume services and tasks. Most landing pages for tips provide opening times, directions and lists of items that may or may not be brought to the tip.
On this last point councils need to be absolutely clear. They all run slightly different arrangements, and people who have recently re-located are likely to assume that their new council tip will take the same things as their old council tip.
It is important that editors responsible for the waste pages are specific about items that are not accepted at some facilities. Used paint can be problematic at some sites, and car batteries may also raise questions because of containing corrosive material.
It is not satisfactory for less restrictive sites to assume that because they take ‘everything’, the public will not want reassurance about specific items. The same issue arises across waste collection tasks, be it bulky waste (where the public may not want to assume that ‘bed’ also covers ‘matress’) or paper recycling where ‘directories’ can’t be assumed to cover paperback and/or hardback books.
The last time we did this survey we asked: Is clear information provided about waste that is accepted at this site? and 93% of sites scored ‘yes’. This time our more specific questions did less well, at 85% and 89% - although the results are still impressive for this cohort of councils.
There were some good examples of recycling A-Zs. However, on some sites there was a list of things (or icons) you could bring and then a small link to the recyling A-Z. This approach could lead people to take a quick look at the list of items and then ignore the A-Z, missing really good information. Better to have a comprehensive recycling A-Z and get rid of the shorter example list of items or icons.
The survey tested one other vital piece of information for tip users, which is whether they might use the tip if driving a rental van. This is a likely scenario for people moving house, where they may use the hire van to dispose of accumulated items they are not taking with them. Not allowing vans because they are most likely associated with business use is understandable, but if this is extended to hire vans used infrequently by residents for domestic purposes, this does need to be clearly communicated. If a person has hired a van for a day, and then discovers they need a permit, the mistake will be costly, stressful and highly inconvenient for them. We found that 41% of sites failed to be clear about this issue.
Although we did not test other restrictions in this year’s survey, more and more restrictions seem to be being put in place as the demand for waste disposal increases, the supply of landfill diminishes and its cost increases. Restrictions include requiring residents to get a permit to use the tip, to bring proof of residence with them when visiting the tip, or to pay to dispose of certain materials like plasterboard that are associated with DIY. Again, councils need to provide very clear information on their websites, which can then be communicated through other channels.
Councils are good at providing theoretical information about recycling options that provide an alternative to using the tip (93%) but less good at providing the practical information in the form of links to organsations that will collect or receive items suitable for recycling (74%).
In terms of the findability of information about tips, 96% provide obvious links to waste and recycling pages through from the home page, as should be expected given the importance of waste and recycling within the mix of council services. However, site search does not perform as well as it should for this task. 67% of site searches were not effective in finding recycling centres – sometimes they brought up information about fly tipping instead. There were a number of sites where ‘council tip’ failed but ‘tip’ worked.
Where councils have an A-Z function – at the last count in May 2017 16 did – only 56% had our search term ‘tip’ listed.
Finally it was great to see webcams being deployed (eg Buckinghamshire & Northamptonshire, and there are others) to show tip users what the queues are like – a really useful facility for busy weekends.
Very easy to navigate from all starting points. The information was clear and unambiguous with a number of links on how to reduce your household waste and other organisations that could help. However, the site search results could be improved.
Well written content and an excellent page on the types of vehicles that you can use to take rubbish and waste to the tip. I found it very easy to navigate my way around to find the different pieces of information. My only comment would be that it took me a while to find out about disposing of paint because I didn't choose the right category to start with.
Very good 'Recycling A-Z' - really easy to use with loads of useful information. The navigation was clear and the customer journey was equally good irrespective of start point. At first I couldn't see any obvious links to organisations that also help with recycling but actually you do find these organisations within the recycling A-Z under individual items such as 'furniture' or 'bedding'.
Very easy to navigate from all starting points on the customer journey. Well written content and plenty of information about how to reuse waste.
Very easy navigation from the home page. Useful, concise and easy to read content.