There are a number of definitions that might be used to describe flats that form part of a commercial building. For example:

Just like other blocks of flats, there are many different types of building that contain flats and commercial premises.  For example:

  • Many high streets have single flats above single commercial premises. These might be detached or form part of a ‘terrace’ of shops and flats (see photos below).
  • A single block of flats might extend over multiple shops. These blocks might be low or high rise (see photos below).
  • The building might contain multiple types of commercial premises as well as flats. For example the Shard building, which is being built in London, will be a 72 storey building that will include offices, restaurants, an observatory, a hotel and luxury flats .

Considerations when introducing a recycling or food waste scheme for these types of premises include:

  • The service provided to residents needs to be appropriate to the features of the building. Read more about this below.
  • Distinguishing between commercial and household waste and applying appropriate charges for businesses. This can be difficult, particularly if ‘clear all’ collections are operated to keep thoroughfares clear of waste. Some authorities have addressed this through enforcement and, where they collect commercial waste, the provision of branded refuse and recycling sacks to distinguish between household and commercial waste.
  • The local demographics. For example there may be a high turnover of residents and/or businesses within a building which means that on-going communications will be required to inform new residents how to recycle properly and remind businesses of their responsibilities regarding waste.
  • Ensuring that residents use the collection scheme correctly. Previous surveys undertaken by LRS of residents of flats as part of commercial premises have indicated that residents may use a number of unorthodox methods to dispose of their waste and recycling, such as use of business waste and recycling facilities, use of local litter bins or simply setting out materials without using the service provided which are then removed by council “clear all” services.

How could different building types affect collections?

Some common considerations for introducing a recycling or food waste collection service for flats as part of a commercial building are:

  • The number of residential properties in a block (or in close proximity) will affect how services are provided. For example, while it might be appropriate for a small number of households to present waste and recycling on the street for collection, this is not likely to be feasible for blocks with large numbers of properties due to the impact on access and aesthetics (e.g. having a large number of containers presented).
  • Flats as part of commercial premises tend to be accessed directly from the street e.g. there is usually no frontage in which recycling and waste containers can be stored.  This means that recycling and waste need to be stored within flats until the day of collection or at a suitable space externally (e.g. at the rear of the property).
  • Where flats have a rear yard access may be via an alley way or road that is not wide enough for the collection vehicle to drive down.  This means that the manual handling of any containers stored in the rear yard needs to be considered carefully, particularly in relation to the distance from the containers to the vehicle collection point. Please check with your contractor/collection supervisor what the maximum drag distance is.
  • Since commercial premises tend to be located in high footfall areas such as town centre streets. High traffic movements can make it difficult for a vehicle to park while collections are made.
  • If multiple businesses are contained within the building they will all need to be communicated with to ensure that they have appropriate arrangements in place to manage their waste.  In larger buildings with multiple commercial premises there may be a facilities manager that can assist with communications and monitoring.

About collection schemes for flats as part of a commercial premises

A survey of six local authorities undertaken in 2012 identified two broad approaches to recycling service provision for flats as part of a commercial building:

  1. Extend either the kerbside or flats recycling scheme as appropriate to each building type
  2. Provide a bespoke service

The authorities that responded indicated that they would assess the building features before deciding on an appropriate scheme for the building type. Read more about how to undertake such an assessment in the section of this guidance that outlines how to undertake an inventory of building types.

A mixture of sacks and bins are being provided for dry recycling and residual waste by the authorities surveyed.  Bins are most likely to be provided at buildings where they can be stored off the street. For example, the photo to the left shows a back yard of a flat as part of a commercial premise in Bexley (London) where bins and a food waste caddy are stored and the photo below shows a bin store in Islington that opens onto the street so that the refuse bins can be wheeled out on collection day.

A number of local authorities that use sacks for collection provide branded sacks (for both refuse and recycling ) to residents in order to be able to distinguish between residential waste and (unpaid) commercial waste. For example in Blackpool residents in flats as part of a commercial building are given lilac sacks for general waste, while businesses using the council’s commercial waste collection service are provided with orange sacks.  This enables collection crews to monitor black sacks set out for collection to help identify businesses that are setting out commercial waste that has not been paid for.  Supervisors can then check whether the commercial property has made suitable arrangements for the disposal of their waste and if not, to undertake further engagement or enforcement action as appropriate.

Collection frequencies for flats as part of commercial buildings vary. In Waltham Forest, east London, materials are collected three times a week whereas in Blackpool paper and card is collected fortnightly, and mixed containers collected weekly.  When deciding on collection frequency, local authorities will need to consider the amount of materials that residents can store within their flats between collections and the impact of setting out materials prior to the collection day (particularly in high footfall areas where containers could cause access issues).  To address this, collection times need to be clearly communicated to residents.  Some local authorities may consider implementing time-banded collections for residents and businesses.  Time banded collections are when a local authority allows waste and recycling to be set out on the street only between certain times e.g. from 6am to 8am, the aim being to keep the street clear of waste and recycling during the busiest times. Usually non-compliance is monitored and fixed penalty notices may be issued to those residents and businesses that consistently do not comply with the time-banding. 

Equipment that may be needed

A summary of the different equipment that may be used to undertake collections of recycling and food waste from flats is provided in the ‘Equipment to support recycling collections’ . Particular considerations for equipment used for flats as part of commercial premises are:

  • Commercial premises tend to be located in high footfall areas which mean that containers set out on the street can be problematic. Where containers are required to be set out on the street for collection, single use sacks may be a more appropriate option rather than a container such as a box which would be left on the street until the resident is able to take it into the property.
  • If large bins (e.g. 660, 1100 or 1280 litre) are used the drag distance to the vehicle will need to be considered, for example, if the back courtyard is accessed by a narrow alley way that may not be accessible to the collection vehicle. 
  • Whether the type of containers used can help prevent commercial premises from using household schemes. For example, by providing bins with suitable locks that are accessible only to residents or that residents are provided with clearly branded sacks for refuse and recycling so that unpaid for commercial waste can be more easily identified by crews. If branded sacks are used local authorities should try to ensure that they cannot easily be forged.
  • Clear signage can be used on containers to indicate that they should be used for household waste only. 

What is good about collections from flats in commercial buildings?

  • Helps to provide an equitable recycling and food waste  service to all residents
  • Can help to meet residents demand for improved services
  • The businesses within the building are likely to have a stake in ensuring that the household collection scheme works well (e.g. that the waste and recycling is set out only at the correct times to prevent it affecting the street-scene) so may help communicate with residents regarding the scheme and monitor issues
  • A range of services may be offered to residents to best suit the property type. A local authority is likely to  have the operational capacity to offer a range of services e.g. if they have vehicles with bin lift capacity to service schools and large blocks of flats and vehicles that can accept materials in sacks from commercial or kerbside collections

What problems could there be?

  • Some flats as part of commercial premises are single households.  This means that in comparison to larger blocks of flats there is unlikely to be a cleaner or caretaker visiting the site regularly to assist with communications and monitoring. There are also unlikely to be other communication opportunities commonly available at larger blocks of flats such as noticeboards and communal areas.
  • Monitoring the performance of schemes can be difficult particularly as recycling is often collected with materials from other sources (e.g. from commercial premises, kerbside properties or schools).  Due to the small percentage of properties in this category local authorities may find it hard to justify the investment in monitoring (such as waste audits).  None of the authorities that responded to the survey in 2012 had gathered performance data for flats as part of a commercial building.
  • The mis-use of the household waste and recycling service by businesses is a problem reported by many local authorities. The methods taken to reduce this are discussed in the top tips below.

Top tips - examples

Enfield has recruited champions to help communicate with residents of flats as part of commercial premises. These champions explain the service to new residents as well as monitor the scheme and assist the council to communicate with residents on any issues (e.g. sacks being set out on the wrong day).  Door to door canvassing and leafleting has also been undertaken. The Council reports that this has worked well as the doors to many residences are accessible from the street (e.g. there is no communal entrance) and since the commercial premises tend to be located in high footfall areas the champions can get to them by public transport.

Blackpool reported a high turnover of residents in some of their flats as part of commercial buildings. To address this four officers communicate with these residents as part of their role.

Leeds City Council feels that clear communications are vital.  They recommend communicating new scheme information just a week before collections start otherwise residents will lose the information.

Following feedback from collection crews the commercial waste team in Merton undertake face to face visits to businesses to communicate about incorrect use of household waste and recycling services. They have found this is an effective way of ensuring that businesses understand their responsibilities.

A number of authorities have developed bespoke leaflets and letters to communicate the waste and recycling services for flats as part of commercial buildings.  This allows issues particular to this type of property to be addressed e.g. where waste and recycling should be presented and correct methods for businesses to dispose of waste.

Enfield provides residents in flats as part of commercial buildings with branded sacks for waste and recycling.  In order to avoid the loss or theft of the sacks from the doorstep they were being supplied in flat-packs which could fit through letterboxes. However, the flat-packs were more expensive and had longer order lead times than rolls. Rolls of sacks are now provided and requests for additional sacks are monitored.  Properties using high numbers of sacks, and hence potentially setting our commercial waste are identified to the Council’s Environmental Crime Unit and follow up action taken as appropriate.

There are a number of approaches to control mis-use of household waste and recycling collections by businesses. As an example:

  • Enfield crews have been trained to monitor and report back issues and the council also works with ‘Street Hawks’ a network of local volunteers that monitor and report issues to the council. If the council identifies an issue of trade mis-use, an officer visits the business to discuss their legal responsibilities. The council provides a reduced price sack collection service to small business to encourage use of the council collection service.
  • Officers in Blackpool meet regularly with their collection contractor Veolia to discuss any issues identified by the crews.  The council’s commercial waste team will then investigate and deal with businesses appropriately.
  • During 2009 Leeds undertook a dedicated exercise whereby every business premise was visited by enforcement officers to check that they had appropriate collection arrangements in place.  

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Re-use and recycling