Essex Flats recycling

Project description

As part of the BLUEPRINT Project, waste management officers at a local authority in Essex were supported to improve recycling in flats.

The main features of the pilot project were to:

  • target ten blocks of flats with high level of contamination in recycling
  • set an initial baseline
  • survey residents to understand barriers to recycling
  • roll out interventions based on resident survey results. E.g.,: improved facilities, informative notice boards, improved cleanliness and tidiness of recycling area etc.
  • monitor recycling collections on a monthly basis
  • assess results after six months of interventions
  • understand replicability of study

The local authority chose the blocks of flats and reported on the main issues: contamination, access routes to the bins, transient population etc. Questions were prepared for the residents’ survey. At this stage the project had to stop due to staffing issues, with the local authority unable to confirm its commitment on the project. 

The project was not delivered but lessons were still learned and shared below.


The aim of the project was to show that recycling in flats can improve, if facilities and resident understanding of accepted items improves

The project team did not want to apply a “one size fits all” solution. They wanted to know from residents what was important to them in their communal areas.

Target audience

Any residents living in the selected blocks of flats.

Specific goals

  • Increase quality of recycling.
  • Reduce contamination.
  • Reduce waste.

The project team did not set numerical targets.


  • Proposed start with baseline and residents survey was April-May 2021.
  • Interventions to start from June 2021.
  • Monitoring for six months.
  • Records to be compared with baseline.


Face to face and print.

Who was involved in this project?

Lead organisation: Essex County Council (ECC).

Organisation contact

[email protected]


  • 2x Senior Circular Economy Officers.
  • 1x Recycling officer.
  • 1x Waste Manager.

Other stakeholders involved

  • Council Housing department.
  • Communications Officer.
  • Landlords and managing agents for privately owned blocks of flats. 

Where was the project piloted and why?

One local authority in EssexPopulation is identified as being statistically representative of the rest of the county, and with the local authority keen to support, this was a great opportunity to explore recycling in flats.  

Why was the project created?

Why we did the project

Recycling in flats presents more challenges than in low-rise properties due to: high levels of contamination, lack of ownership, limited space, poor communal facilities, and high turnover of residents.  Yet, even willing residents often do not have the right information.

Expected value to the circular economy

The actions focused on recycling, with more information about waste reduction and reuse. This is in line with the waste hierarchy.

How was the project implemented?

Essex County Council and a local authorities worked together to:

  • carry out background research on flats recycling with best practices from WRAP and ReLondon
  • set up working group and regular meetings
  • agree partnership terms via a document
  • create a defined resident survey and incentivise with rewards
  • identify quick wins and a range of additional interventions
  • seek approval from leadership and other relevant departments

Cost and staff resource

  • 2x 0.25 FTE Senior Circular Economy Officers.
  • 1x 0.25FTE Recycling Officer.
  • No other costs.


Partners discussed the pilot with Councillors and Head of services, but it stopped before formal approval.


  • Local authority to take baseline record of all bins in all selected blocks of flats.
  • Local authority refuse and recycling collection crews to provide weekly records of recycling quantities and contamination to their local authority for reporting.
  • ECC and local authority to compare pre and post intervention data.
  • Results to determine successful interventions.



N/A as the pilot was stopped before delivery phase, due to capacity issues for local authority partner.

Lessons learnt

The strengths of the pilot have been:

All resources such as analysis and residents survey were saved for future use.

The weaknesses of the pilot have been:

  • low availability from Essex local authorities
  • the local authority partner did not have enough staff to deliver the project
  • no immediate fall-back plan with other partners
  • not enough preparatory work to ensure the partner could deliver the project
  • other projects and tasks were seen as a higher priority to the local authority’s workload
  • it was suggested that the sample size could be reduced to six blocks of flats, instead of ten, but capacity issues persisted

How we could further improve and remove barriers:

  • fall back plan with other organisations i.e. Universities or Housing Associations
  • highlight monetary returns from the project
  • assess seasonality and other priorities
  • set deadlines and success measures to spot delays and lack of resources
  • seek formal approval of project proposal and resources before committing to it


Other priorities, particularly arising from changes in workload due to seasonality, led to the project being a low priority and ultimately unable to continue.


Due to the project being unable to continue, there are a number of risks that should be considered in the future such as: setting expectations, agreeing responsibilities and tasks from the development of the project idea, ensuring project is appropriately prioritised. 

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