Key issues to consider when designing and implementing a recycling or food waste service for flats

This section is designed to assist high level planning and decision making.  It includes:

  • Advice on setting effective aims and objectives
  • A template implementation plan with step-by-step activities for launching or improving a flats recycling service
  • A simple tool to help you calculate the impact of different collection schemes on your recycling rate

Planning a recycling and food waste service

This section outlines some key issues for local authorities to consider when planning a new flats recycling or food waste service or improving an existing service.

The information in this section of the guidance supports an implementation plan which provides indicative activities and timelines for introducing a new flats recycling service or improving an existing flats recycling service.  This implementation plan can be downloaded and amended to best suit your needs.

This section is also supported by an Excel-based tool that allows you to calculate the impact that different recycling and food waste collection schemes could have on your local authority’s overall recycling rate. Read the instructions on how to use the tool.

Aims and objectives

The aims and objectives of a flats recycling or food waste service should be set early in the planning stage. Aims are broad statements that define the goals or intentions of the local authority for its service.  For example, the need to improve services to residents, to employ local people in the delivery of services, to increase the recycling rate, to reduce carbon. 

The objectives are precise statements that must be achieved in order to reach the aims. There are normally a number of objectives for one aim.  For example if an aim of a service is to increase the recycling rate, an objective might be to expand food waste collection schemes to 2,500 households by March 2010.

The aims and objectives will be key factors that shape how services are provided and monitored.  Different aims and objectives may be assigned different priorities e.g. the aim of making recycling as easy as refuse disposal for residents may be more or less important than the aim of providing collection schemes at a low cost per household.

Stakeholder consultation

Stakeholders such as managing agents, caretakers and other council departments play a vital role in the success of a flats recycling and food waste service so it is important that their views are taken into account when aims and objectives are set.  If the recycling or food waste service being planned can help them meet their objectives they may support the new service with their own resources.  A plan for when and how different stakeholders will be consulted should be developed. Read more about stakeholder consultation.

Collection and disposal arrangements

The current collection and disposal arrangements and infrastructure available now and in the future will affect how a service is provided to flats.  For example:

  • The capacity available for incoming material at a composting facility may determine if food waste collections can be provided to flats 
  • The capabilities of a sorting facility or access to local reprocessors may affect whether certain materials can be collected for recycling 
  • Vehicles from the existing fleet may be suitable for collections from flats provided a certain type of collection container is used
  • Colours and branding used for kerbside collection containers could be extended to containers for flats

Current collection and disposal arrangements, contracts and budgets should be reviewed to understand how collection schemes might impact them.  For example, in the long term the introduction of a new recycling collection scheme should mean that less residual waste is collected.  This should allow resources (vehicles, crews and budget) saved on refuse disposal to be reallocated to recycling.

Existing contracts should be assessed to determine whether flats recycling and food waste collection schemes can be provided through them or whether a service provider needs to be appointed under a new contract.

Resources available

Consider the resources available to assist with the launch and delivery of a new recycling or food waste scheme such as: 

  • Availability of outreach staff, caretakers and internal staff
  • Budgets available now and in future years for scheme launch and maintenance
  • The lifting capabilities of current collection vehicles
  • Communication materials currently in stock
  • Resources required from other stakeholders and whether they are able to allocate these within the planned timescales e.g. managing agents may need some time to arrange for the fire risk assessments in a block of flats to be updated before new collection schemes are introduced

How a flats recycling or food waste service might integrate with other services provided by the local authority should also be considered.  For example:

  • Refurbishment of blocks of flats can provide an opportunity to integrate recycling
  • Healthy eating and local gardening programmes can link to messages about food waste reduction and collection
  • Schools education programmes could carry messages about recycling for flats

Risk of different collection schemes

When a new service is planned, local authorities should consider the broad risks of the service and the specific risks of different collection schemes at individual blocks of flats. Mitigation measure for how these risks might be managed should be identified. 

A broad risk assessment covers the general risks that might impact on a service and could include factors beyond direct waste and recycling issues such as national press coverage or resident satisfaction with other council services.  Examples of broad risks and their mitigations might be:

Risk: Lack of political support. Mitigations: Provide regular briefings and updates to councillors and directors; arrange site visits; ensure councillors/directors understand justifications for service design; address/respond to any queries promptly; involve councillors/directors in decisions; develop information pack so councillors can respond to residents queries; involve councillors/directors in positive PR related the service.

Risk: Manual handling risk from manoeuvre of wheeled food waste bring containers to vehicles. Mitigations: Use an appropriate size of container that will not be too heavy to safely manoeuvre when full, ensure that drag distances from the container site to vehicle collection point are appropriate and that the container can be wheeled over a hard, smooth and flat surface.

A specific risk assessment focuses on the individual block that a collection scheme is being provided to. For example a risk at a particular block of flats might be that there have been previous incidents of anti-social behaviour with refuse bins being wheeled around to assist crime. The mitigation may be to install locking posts with new recycling containers in order to prevent them being moved. 

Because blocks of flats are so diverse in terms of building features each block of flats should be individually assessed before new recycling or food waste collection schemes are introduced. 


All of the issues assessed during the planning stages should feed into the procedures that are developed for implementing recycling and food waste collections.  Procedures are a set of instructions on how to perform a specific task, for example:

  • How caretakers should monitor and report problems with recycling and food waste collection schemes
  • How crews should deal with contaminated recycling containers
  • How blocks of flats should be assessed for their suitability for different food waste and recycling schemes

The development of procedures may take into account:

  • Management of risk
  • Compliance with current contracts and working practices
  • Outcomes of stakeholder consultation

Identify flats within the local authority area

Identifying blocks of flats within a local authority area can be difficult and time consuming unless comprehensive lists have been maintained.  Tips for identifying flats within include:

  • Reviewing lists of properties on bulk refuse collection rounds. Blocks of flats tend to have larger bins for refuse than kerbside properties so may be collected on a different round.
  • Sending a member of the team out with the refuse collection crews to make a list of blocks of flats.
  • Encourage residents to request recycling for their block of flats. This will help identify the address of the block as well as the managing agent.
  • Reviewing information held by council tax departments (although it is often not possible to determine which of these properties would be eligible for a flats collection scheme versus those that are more suited to a kerbside scheme).
  • Planning departments should have information about new developments.
  • Asking the main management organisations within the area for lists of property they manage.  Visit Association of Residential Managing Agents for details of private agents in different English regions. Use the Land Registry to find out who the managing agents are for blocks of flats you know about.



Re-use & recycling