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3 ways 65 recycling centres have increased site efficiency 

Ben Jones
17 September 2021
Est. Reading: 9 minutes
Updated: 17 September 2021

In the last year, we’ve facilitated over 3,000,000 bookings for 65 recycling centres. In that time, we’ve worked with pioneering local authorities, and learnt a hell of a lot  now, want to share what we’ve learnt with you.  

So, keep reading and in the next 9 minutes, you’ll learn how Western Riverside Waste Authority (WRWA), Kent County Council (KCC), and re3 are using booking technology to increase efficiency, recycle more, and spend less.  

As you’ll see, we’ve pulled together case studies, internal reports, and resident satisfaction surveys to give you practical, data-based tips that will help you: 

  • Reduce wasted capacity  
  • Eliminate queues  
  • Prevent service misuse, and  
  • Improve the visitor experience  

So, without further ado … 

Tip 1: You MUST control capacity and stop sudden spikes in demand. 

Over the last 12 months, we’ve spoken to 100’s of recycling officers, waste managers, and the like, who were all looking for a solution to one common problem: queuing.  

If (like them) you’re looking for proven ways to reduce the traffic build-up at your recycling centre, then look no further.  

It’s simple - to reduce queuing, you’ve got to be able to control site capacity and eliminate sudden spikes in demand. re3 have done just that. Here’s how:  

  • They’ve made it mandatory for visitors to book an appointment before visiting their recycling centres.  
  • They’ve capped the number of slots available on an hour-by-hour basis.  
  • They’ve used booking data to optimise the number of slots released, the length of each slot, and the time buffers between each visit.  
  • They’ve used booking technology to improve communication with visitors.  

Their results speak for themselves.  

Take a look at graphic 1 - here, you can see the number of visitors (per hour) at the Longshot Lane Recycling Centre in April 2019, when no booking system was in place. The data clearly shows that re3 were susceptible to huge spikes in demand – see, for example, between 11-12 on Wednesday and 12-1 on Sunday. 

In this scenario, re3 had no way of controlling the number of people turning up on-site, so long queues at peak times was inevitable.  

Graphic 1:  Site visits before a booking system was in place

Recycling Centre Booking Pattern Without Booking System

Differently, graphic 2 shows the number of visitors (per hour) at the Longshot Lane Recycling Centre in April 2021, following the introduction of a booking system. Here, you’ll notice that demand is constant and evenly distributed.

In this scenario, re3 have control, they know the exact number of visitors on-site at any given time, and they know that they won’t exceed a manageable capacity. Because of this, they’ve been able to eliminate off-site queuing and allocate the right amount of staff members to help residents safely dispose of their waste. 

As a result, 65% of re3 residents thought that their site visit was more efficient following the introduction of a booking system.  

Graphic 2: Site visits after a booking system was introduced

Recycling Centre Booking Pattern With a Booking System In Place

The above isn’t an anomaly.

Using this same method, WRWA have also eliminated off-site queuing – a remarkable feat, given that before the introduction of a booking system, queues of up to half a mile were commonly recorded. 

The same goes for KCC, who in this report, say that by introducing a booking system, they’ve been able to “spread demand more evenly throughout the day, so that queuing is minimised.”   

But how can you make sure that you’re releasing the right number of slots, at the right time, for the right duration? 

It’s simple. You use booking data.

With a booking system, you’ll have access to all the data you need to optimise the number of appointments you release on a day-by-day, hour-by-hour basis. You’ll know your centres busiest and quietest times, how long (on average) visitors take to dispose of their waste, and how many bookings your site can feasibly manage – so you’ll be able to optimise your appointment structures, eliminate queuing, and improve your resource allocation.  

Here’s how WRWA did it: 

Initially, WRWA knew that their centre could accommodate 60 idling cars on-site, with 24 available recycling bays – meaning that if 84 booking slots were made available, every 30 minutes, then there would be no need for visitors to queue off-site (even if all the visitors turned up at the same time).  

This is a great starting point – but it could be made more efficient.  

After collecting booking data, WRWA were able to better understand previous usage trends and optimise their appointment structures on a day-by-day, hour-by-hour basis, rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach. Importantly, this has helped them increase site efficiency and improve resource allocation.  

Why should you care?  

Because like KCC, WRWA, and re3, you could:  

  1. Minimise the disruption caused to local roads and businesses during peak usage.  
  2. Improve air quality by reducing carbon emissions.  
  3. Free up site staff so they can spend more time supporting visitors and less time managing traffic queues. 

Tip 2: put a stop to service misuse

It’s simple – if you stop people from misusing your site, you’ll save a ton of money.  

In 2019 alone, over 27,000 non-residents illegally dumped waste at the Smugglers Way Recycling Centre, costing locals £133,000. This isn’t an anomaly. Kent County Council also estimates that non-resident site usage costs their constituents around £100,000 a year. 

Worryingly, if you also factor in the cost of residents who illegally dispose of trade waste and other banned materials, these figures rise considerably.  

What’s more, the effects aren’t just monetary. Service misuse also leads to:  

  1. Longer queues and more disruption for neighbouring residents and businesses. 
  2. Less available slots for eligible residents, leading to an increase in fly-tipping.   
  3. Less staff being on-hand to help residents dispose of their waste correctly, resulting in a lower recycling rate.   

But it’s not all doom and gloom.

You’ll be glad to know that with booking technology, you can put a stop to service misuse. We’ll show you how, using real-life examples …  

Here's how KCC, WRWA, and re3 have stopped service misuse: 

1: They’ve set unique booking rules to stop non-residents from entering the site. 

WRWA 

Since February 2021, visitors have not been able to enter the Smugglers Way Recycling Centre without a booking. To make a booking, residents must fill in a series of required fields, including their address, car type, and number plate. If they enter an address that isn’t within the catchment area, they won’t be able to proceed with their booking.

Likewise, if a visitor turns up on-site and their registration/address doesn’t match those provided on the booking, they will be denied entry by staff.  

Importantly, this has stopped non-residents from using the site – resulting in a 6% decrease in site usage and an estimated cost saving of £133,000 per year.  

KCC 

KCC follow the same process. However, they also limit each household to two bookings a month. This effectively protects the site against residents who are attempting to dispose of large amounts of trade waste.

Like WRWA, KCC also captures each resident’s car registration as part of the booking process. Importantly, this helps site staff easily identify rogue tippers who are dumping trade waste at multiple sites to avoid detection.  

By doing this, KCC estimate that the usage of their sites will decrease by 2%, saving taxpayers an estimated £100,000.  

2: They've integrated booking technology with on-site ANPR cameras.

WRWA has combined booking technology with on-site ANPR cameras to identify rogue tippers and stop non-residents from entering the site. 

Here’s how it works:  

Visitors arrive on site, and the ANPR cameras capture their number plate information. If a booking for that vehicle has been made, the resident will be allowed to enter the site. If the visitor hasn’t booked, the ANPR system alerts staff and the vehicle is directed to leave the recycling centre.

It sounds simple right? But this is a tried and tested way to stop non-residents from entering your site (remember that to make a booking, you must provide a valid address, so ultimately, no address = no entry to the site).  

By integrating booking technology with on-site ANPR cameras, WRWA has been able to easily record how many times each resident uses the site. They’ve also been able to gauge the average duration of stay with entry and exit time stamps. Importantly, this has helped to identify visitors who are using the site to illegally dispose of their commercial waste.  

Once identified, banned vehicles are entered into the system and visitors are no longer able to make a booking using that registration. If they attempt to enter the site without a booking, the ANPR system alerts site staff and the vehicle is directed to leave the recycling centre.

It’s that simple.  

3: They've improved the way they communicate with residents.

KCC and re3 have both used booking technology to improve the way they communicate with residents.  

In this report, KCC says that following the introduction of a booking system, they’ve been able to schedule automated messages to inform residents of the procedures they should follow before (and during) their site visit.  

Importantly, this has reduced confusion and led to a reduction in the disposal of banned materials, less unintentional misuse, and an improved recycling rate.

In fact, in the last year, re3 saw an average recycling rate increase of 3.5% – they attribute this, in part, to residents being better informed on how to separate their waste! 

Tip 3: Reduce wasted capacity. 

Interestingly, despite seeing a 50% reduction in site visits during 2020, re3’s collected tonnage only fell by 16% - and their recycling rate increased by an average of 3.5%.  

Likewise, despite the obvious COVID-19 restrictions, KCC has collected ~185,000 tonnes of waste over the last 12 months. 99% of that waste has been recycled, treated, or recovered to produce energy. Interestingly, both of these statistics are an increase on previous years. 

So, you’re probably thinking: how on earth have they increased their recycling rate despite seeing a decrease in the number of visitors using their sites?

Well, in short, they’ve done it by increasing the efficiency of their sites and reducing wasted capacity.  

But how exactly have they increased the efficiency of their sites?  

They’ve used a booking system to:  

1: Reduce no-shows by up to 62%

With a booking system in place, residents can amend their appointment in 20 seconds or less, making them far less likely to just not turn up. 

Importantly, this means that their unwanted appointments can be re-released in real-time, helping KCC and re3 to reduce wasted capacity. But that’s not all. With automated reminders, KCC and re3 have also been able to reduce unintentional no-shows, which has, again, helped them to reduce wasted capacity.  

2: Optimise their appointment structures

With real-time booking data, same-day appointments, and automatically re-released appointment slots, re3 have been able to minimise wasted capacity and optimise their appointment structures.  

3: Reduce admin work

Site staff can now manage bookings for multiple services and locations, in one place, in seconds. They can do it on the go, using any internet-connected device. This has meant that instead of wasting time on admin tasks, staff can now focus on helping residents dispose of their waste correctly, speeding up the on-site process and increasing service availability.  

4: Improve communication with visitors

Both KCC and re3 use booking technology to schedule automated, pre-appointment messages, informing residents of the procedures they should follow before (and during) their site visit. This has helped them reduce confusion, speed up the waste disposal process, and increase their recycling rate.  

But do people like having to book a trip to the tip?

Well, in a recent survey of over 9,000 residents, KCC found that:  

  • 98% of visitors found it easy to make a booking  
  • 96% of visitors were extremely satisfied with their booking experience, and 
  • 94% of visitors wanted to keep the council’s booking system in place. 

Residents also highlighted 5 additional benefits:  

  • Less time spent queuing  
  • Less disruption on neighbouring roads and businesses  
  • No wasted car journeys  
  • Improved communication, and  
  • More help from site staff  

So, it’s safe to say that Kent residents like the booking system. However, they did suggest 3 ways it could be improved: 

  • By increasing the number of appointments available and shortening the timeslots 
  • By making bookings available more than a week in advance 
  • By allowing bookings to be made, cancelled, and amended on the day of the appointment 

It’s worth noting that due to the flexibility of their booking system, KCC were able to: increase the number of appointments from 20,000 to 65,000, make bookings available up to 1 month in advance, shorten appointment slots from 1.5 hours to half an hour, and enable residents to book, cancel or amend their appointment on the same day.

As a result, the booking system has been a big hit with both residents and staff! 

The stats collected by re3 paint a similar picture.

In a recent survey, 65% of residents said that the waste disposal process was more efficient following the introduction of a booking system. Echoing this, 98% of residents said that the services offered by re3 were either ‘good’ or ‘very good.’  

Likewise, in a survey of over 2,400 visitors, WRWA found that: 

  • 92% of visitors found it easy to make a booking and that  
  • 91% of visitors didn’t have to wait before disposing of their waste  

Based on this, it's perhaps unsurprising that the most common responses from WRWA’s user satisfaction survey were that:  

  • “The system works well.”  
  • “The system is very efficient.”   
  • “This is a much better system.” 

With all of this in mind, it’s fair to say that for the most part, booking systems have improved the user experience at recycling centres across the country.  

Increase the efficiency of your recycling centre. 

If you’d like to find out more about how a booking system can help you increase the efficiency of your recycling centre, click the button below.  

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