To date, research has mainly focused its efforts on exploring barriers to using recycling services from kerbside properties. We are now seeing a shift to the next level — understanding the issues with recycling for households receiving communal collections of recyclate. Communal collections are notoriously known for having lower participation and higher contamination levels in recyclate services. Evidence shows that a lot of these communal properties are not recycling properly. Based on our years of research experience into barriers to recycling and behaviour change, M·E·L Waste Insights sees "flats", a very loosely defined term to describe communal properties, as 12 distinct types of premises, categorised by their physical and demographic diversity. In each case there are very different operating models for recycling infrastructure, service, and desired recycling behaviour, each with a very particular set of barriers to using the recycling service.
M·E·L was commissioned in early 2014 to carry out a unique doorstepping campaign, commissioned by Biffa, to understand the barriers to recycling in communal properties in South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse. There are approximately 7000 communal properties in South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse. The campaign covered more than 2,000 flats and engaged with 400 residents in each of the districts to raise awareness, encourage participation in the recycling services, reduce contamination, obtain feedback on the collection services and identify what the barriers are to recycling in communal properties. An audit of current service provision including conditions of bin stores, signage, accessibility and other factors affecting recycling was carried out in parallel to the face-to-face consultation to assess the gaps in awareness and claimed barriers versus actual barriers to recycling.
Results connected the claimed barriers versus actual barriers to using communal recycling services for each of the communal developments surveyed. M·E·L provided recommendations for each development based on the evidence presented to assist in overcoming the barriers that were highlighted.