Improving Recycling Rates at HWRCs in Northern Ireland

19th September 2018

Northern Ireland has 98 Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs).  These sites have been identified as having a crucial role to play in meeting statutory recycling targets, in the NI Gap Analysis carried out by WRAP and DAERA (Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs).  We were commissioned by WRAP to carry out a detailed strategic review of the sites and produce recommendations for improving their recycling rates.

Findings from our review have now led to the establishment of a working group involving all 11 authorities, which is developing a coordinated approach to dealing with HWRC policies and improvements across the country.

To carry out the review we visited a selected sample of sites in Northern Ireland and carried out detailed assessments to identify improvements at each site, as well as best practice that could be introduced elsewhere – we visited and recommended improvements at 46 sites in total.

Concise recommendations were produced for each site, including predicted recycling rate improvement and calculations of financial costs and benefits arising from implementing the recommended improvements. These impacts were also modelled at a national level, for example in the predicted changes in national HWRC material flows illustrated below.

Improving Recycling Rates at HWRCs

Predicted impact on material flows at Northern Ireland HWRCs from implementing recommended site improvements.

Obstacles to achieving higher recycling rates were identified on site visits, with recommendations tailored to focus on these challenges – with a particular focus given to policies for managing commercial waste inputs and restricting delivery of mixed residual waste.  A spatial analysis was also carried out to assess opportunities for improving the efficiency of the HWRC network across Northern Ireland.  This identifies areas of both overprovision and under provision which allows authorities to work towards a more efficient distribution of facilities.

WRAP’s Keith Patterson said:

“Eunomia’s review of NI HWRCs successfully gathered evidence of the common issues impacting individual site recycling rates. Their experienced team brought operational insight to the project outputs, which are now allowing local authorities to work together to take action based on industry good practice”

Project Manager Eric Bridgwater said:

“This is by far the largest review of HWRCs of its kind to have been carried out in recent years. It is usually fairly straightforward to identify how to improve HWRC infrastructure, signage, layout and so forth, and this will always be an important part of giving good advice on site improvements.  But what we are increasingly seeing is that many sites are finding it hard to achieve higher recycling rates, and often this is down to a range of other issues that require careful consideration: staffing levels and policies, commercial inputs and restricting residual waste.  It is very encouraging that the local authorities in Northern Ireland have set up a working group to develop an approach on exactly these kinds of issues.”