The evolution of the civic amenity site – more than just recycling?

The evolution of the civic amenity site – more than just recycling?
04 June 2018

Following on from a recent article looking at the commercialisation of Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) written with my colleague John Woodruff and my imminent presentation at the National Civic Amenity Site Conference on the 7th June in Leicester it started me thinking about the future of HWRCs. 

The following scenario illustrates how I see the evolution of HWRCs, demonstrating just some of the ways we advise our local authority clients on how they can increase recycling rates, generate income and benefit the local community.

The services I mention here exist at the present time but not all in the same place.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

It’s a sunny bank holiday, and keen to make the most of the long weekend I’ve done various DIY jobs. I’ve been round the garden cutting the grass, trimming the hedges and pruning overgrown shrubs. I’ve also taken down some old shelves and will be looking to get them replaced later in the day. Any garden waste that I could, I’ve put in my compost bin. Any other waste that’s too big I take to the HWRC.

More than just recycling

Car loaded up I reach the site to be greeted by a member of staff who directs me to the container to deposit my garden waste, in the knowledge that it will be on sale in the next few months in the adjoining garden centre.

I also drop off my old shelves which will either be reused, repaired, reclaimed or end up as a biomass fuel sold on to run a small-scale or domestic biomass boiler, whether for a school, library, farm or someone’s home.

Franchised operations

Before I have a look around the garden centre I pop into the reuse shop and pick up a few pots for my plants. The reuse shop was competitively franchised similar to the award winning Warwickshire County Council Model, and sells a range of furniture, white goods, electronics,  bric and brac and books.  As well as raising millions of pounds for charity, it provides a sustainable income stream for the authority and diverts thousands of tonnes of material from landfill, plus it provides jobs for local people.

Flower pots purchased, the next stop is the repair and maintenance shop where I can get my lawn mower serviced, before heading off to the garden centre, also operated on a franchise from the council, where I can get some bags of compost. 

Supporting local charities, students and apprentices

While at the garden centre I pick up some high quality seasonal bedding, shrubs, patio containers, hanging baskets and pot plants operated by the apprentices employed by the Council’s Ground maintenance team. They also sell wood chippings as a mulch. After all this retail a well-earned cup of coffee at the café run by a local charity and supported by students from the catering college is called for. 

Working with non-profits and construction companies

Adjacent to the garden centre is the Recipro centre, run by a non-profit business where I can I purchase some reclaimed wood for my new shelves. It not only sells reclaimed materials but also receives donations of new building products. 

Research indicates that builders typically over-order by 15% so it receives a good supply of materials from commercial construction companies. Once they have completed a site, these companies tend to move on quickly to their next project.  At this final stage of a construction project there is often building waste which can include unused and unopened materials that can be resold. The value of these items to the builder is insignificant compared with the money lost due to a delay in moving on to the next job. As well as the construction companies, Recipro receive and make available goods from builder’s merchants of obsolete lines, from bathroom suites to kitchen cabinets.

Community Repaint store

A few roads down I also pick up paint from the Community Repaint store, playing my part in reducing the estimated 50 million litres of the 320 million litres of paint sold in the UK each year going to waste.

Tool library

Next door to the Repaint Store, I pop over to the tool library to get a range of equipment to build my new shelves. I look around their range of power drills, circular saws, work tables, sanders, tape measures, levels, drill bits, screwdriver bits and safety glasses to make my shelves, but rather than own all this stuff that I will hardly ever use, I decide to borrow these items from the tool library – which makes sense as the average power drill is used a total of 13 minutes in its lifetime. The library holds an inventory of hundreds more tools, with local residents such as myself able to borrow them according to a number of membership options.

Employment opportunities

Just as important as the users is the opportunities provided to unemployed people who are interested in working in the trades industry. The tool library offers support and mentorship in a workshop environment where ‘trainees’ can learn about tools, maintenance, cataloguing and customer service under the supervision of retired trades people. In addition, members can be shown how to use the tools properly and safely. 

Supporting startups

Next I’m off to pick up a bargain in the arts and crafts section of the centre where new entrepreneurs have set up business in the start up units using discarded materials to make new products, before finally getting back to use my refurbished lawn mower, plant my flowers, put up my new shelves and finish off my day with a cold beer (This not available at the centre- yet!).

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

The examples I’ve provided here are just some of the things that local authorities have successfully implemented and which we support our existing clients with. The next stage in the evolution of HWRCs could be the combining all of these different services into a one stop shop providing a major opportunity to generate income. I recognise that to do this a number of hurdles would have to be overcome, none more than the initial investment, but through partnership working of all sectors of the community, innovative procurement and careful planning perhaps such an idea isn’t that far away. 

Having helped councils across the country on procurement, partnership working and delivering policy we draw on our combined experience to provide advice and support on how you can put ideas into action to improve your council waste services. 

If you’d like to have a chat to find out what we can do for you, feel free to contact me at or call 01235 75 3003.