Waste Reduction at Oxford City Council Horspath Depot
The main activity at Oxford City Council’s Horspath depot is coordinating the repair and refurbishment of all council owned buildings. Nearly 200 staff visit buildings across the city to carry out projects that produce a range of waste items. Items are segregated for recycling by staff at Horspath as well as a second depot nearby. The current programme is felt to be exemplary in complying with legislation, maximising recycling, and minimising staff travel.
Horspath employees maintain the properties either through planned refurbishment, which accounts for 90% of their work or unplanned repairs accounting for 10% of work. Most materials for work are collected from the depot (from lighting to new counter tops) and transported to site. At the end of a job, staff return and segregate their waste at Horspath or the nearby Sports Field depot, depending on the composition. By collecting waste at the depot, large loads of segregated items can be collected by waste management companies with the least frequency, saving on time and costs.
A range of waste may arise from any project from bricks to wood to metal to plastic to clothing. The depots provide a variety of bins, clearly labelled to staff can quickly separate waste items returning from projects. Seventeen materials are separated for recycling at Horspath. Some of these are placed in skips, others, like plastic and cardboard are flattened to reduce storage space needed until they are collected. Some hazardous materials, like asbestos, must be kept in secure containers to prevent contamination.
A facilities manager is responsible for having waste and recycling collected from the depot. This means ensuring full bins are emptied promptly, but also that waste management companies are legally compliant and offering reasonable prices. With so many different materials to manage, this is quite a task. Waste management contractors are selected for their cost, quality and flexibility of service.
The council must pay contractors to remove many items. The most expensive is landfill waste as the price includes a tax that is increasing every year as a government incentive for reduction. This makes recycling and waste minimisation a very important task. Some waste collectors will process what is collected to remove even more items, like rubble and building materials. A few items, such as metal and copper, are valuable and the Council is paid by the collector. The price of materials changes on a weekly basis, much like the stock market, so keeping track of costs and revenue is important.
Items such as sinks, tiles, piping, chimney pots, paint, are separated and reused when possible. Even textiles and clothes recovered at the properties are donated to charities. On site all recyclable materials are clearly signposted, for example glass, bulbs, electrical products, wood chips, cardboard, cleaning product bottles have individual storage spaces assigned to the item.
Thinking of the future
Building regulations largely drive the procurement of materials and equipment, however, the council chooses good quality long lasting products where possible, in the long term saving money in less frequent repairs and refurbishment projects.
With prices changing, better recycling facilities being developed, and new environmental laws coming into force, the Council needs to keep it's waste and recycling operations up to date. EiE was able to review and advise the council on a few further considerations that can hopefully be implemented in the near future.