A digital waste service

Everyone has rubbish. 

Whether you live in a flat, a house or a country estate, in an urban centre or rural isolation, the chances are that you have a collection of bins or containers that need putting out for collection. 

Animated characters representing black rubbish, green garden waste and blue-lid recycling bins used by Rugby Borough Council.
It is just as likely that your bins are collected in an increasingly complicated pattern on various days of the week, leaving you to ask "what bin, when"?

While all we really need is for the council to send a bin lorry and crew to collect our rubbish, doing this efficiently and effectively is increasingly complicated. How can a collection round be created to minimise emissions and save fuel? Can the number of rounds be reduced by combining routes? Could a crew be re-routed to collect a missed bin on the way to somewhere else?

These and other matters can be addressed by using specialist software that takes into account the geography of the council's patch alongside the characteristics of the lorry fleet in use.

Such software creates great opportunities for residents. What if I could see when my next bin day is, and which bin is due for collection? Can my missed bin report automatically cross-check my bin day, and add my collection to another round if necessary? Could the bin crew be shown that I have a disability and need my bin collected from my side gate rather than the kerbside?

This is one purpose of digital waste services - to meet the user needs of residents.

But doing this also offers major benefits to councils - and that is why waste services have been the subject of several previous collaborations. There was the DCLG Waste Data Standards project in 2014, and more recently the Local Digital Fund Round 1 project that created a dashboard for data about missed collections. As the DCLG project showed, local authority waste services generate a lot of customer contact. At that time research suggested it was the third biggest source of calls to unitary authorities and often generated more calls to district councils than any other service.

This is why many councils have already developed digital waste services. Some use proprietary forms products that local governments have adopted over the past twenty years. Others have started from scratch and developed their own bespoke solutions, coding integrations and front-end. A few spent time on user research and design. The problem remains that the learning from this research, and the technical solutions to integration problems are not accessible to all local authorities - and the wheel keeps being reinvented.

That's what the partners are working together to create - a reusable system that connects the waste management systems with a well designed digital experience. Building on a platform that is open source, supports open standards and open APIs, we intend to create a set of easy to configure low-code digital services that can be used by other councils for the benefit of their residents - and we're pleased to have received £350,000 from the Local Digital Fund to make it happen.

As long as there is rubbish there will need to be a waste collection fleet and crews. But by creating a user-centred digital service we can make this service more efficient and effective and reduce incoming demand on customer contact centres and back-office staff - leaving residents better informed and better served.

We'll give you more detail on the technical work we're doing in later posts. Look out for future updates.

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