City / Town / Village: West Sussex
Region: Europe & Former Soviet Union States
Summary:The management of municipal waste in West Sussex has historically relied on disposal by landfill. Despite increasing emphasis on waste recovery for recycling, landfill is currently used as the method for disposing of the remaining 90% of municipal waste and there is only about ten years of landfill capacity at the current rates of filling. Landfill is also regarded as the most unsustainable option, both financially and most importantly,environmentally. New arrangements had to be planned for immediately - making sure that we deal with our waste problem snow and do not store them for future generations.
Reason to Be Selected
With this background in mind, the County Council, aided by the district and borough councils as collection authorities and the Environment Agency (the national regulatory body), embarked on the development of a new municipal wastes management strategy.
Highlights:It was this in mind that West Sussex County Council made the decision to involve the public at the earliest stage of development prior to the establishment of the strategy and consequently produced a new wastes strategy that meets the needs and expectations of West Sussex residents.
The County Council wanted a strategy that the people who live in the county had actively helped to shape through their community involvement and consultation. Local solutions meeting local choice, within a consistent County-wide approach.Formulation of Objectives and strategies
In December 1997, West Sussex County Council launched the strategy process by hosting a Wastes Management Conference.Participants were invited from a broad spectrum of interest sectors in the community, as well as elected members and officers from County and District councils.
Following the conference,approximately sixty individuals were recruited to form three Community Involvement Groups (CIGs) and to participate in the process over a period of six months. The groups were divided into three areas, based on current waste disposal patterns and geographic proximity : the west, the south-east and the north-east. Each group had around twenty members and each CIG member participated on a voluntary basis and was recruited because they were able to reflect the interests and concerns of one or more key sectors in the community ( for example, parish councilors, farmers, youth leaders, environmentalists, teachers and doctors ).
1. Dec. 1997 : conference to launch strategy development process
2. Jan. 1998 to May 1998 : Community Involvement Programme
3. Oct. 1998 : draft consultation document produced - “A Way with Waste”
4. Nov. 1998 to Dec. 1998 - full public consultation
5. June 1999 - final strategy document published and implementationType of Organization: Local Authority
Formulation of Objectives and strategies
The main objectives of the strategy development process were to produce a strategy that :
·sets out a programme of action aiming to resolve the problem of household waste
·will form abroad structure for long-term co-operation in wastes management between the County Council and its partner local authorities in West Sussex
·can feed into the preparation of a Waste Local Plan which will address land-use issues for all waste management activities
·will define the criteria on which the acceptability of waste treatment options will be assessed when securing future waste management contracts and in turn guide the private sector toward forms of waste treatments that the people of West Sussex will endorse ·will gain the best value, both environment ally and financially, from the resources we put into wastes managementAs part of their involvement, the CIG members were encouraged to involve their affiliated organisations or groups by communicating what they had learnt at the meetings and report feedback on some of the issues raised at each meeting.
The technical development of the strategy was progressed through the Waste Management Liaison Forum of West Sussex local authority officers and the Environment Agency. The Forum established two officer working groups to address wastes reduction , reuse and recycling, and wastes treatment and disposal options respectively and then used to inform the development of the strategy.
Meetings with officers of neighbouring waste disposal authorities also took place to ensure that the draft wastes management strategy was consistent with the strategies being developed by those authorities.
As a key policy document for the County Council it was important that the elected Members were given the opportunity to provide input into the strategy. The finance required to develop the strategy was provided by Committee approval at £30,000. Accordingly, the Committee established a Chairman's Advisory group of Members to consider details of the proposed strategy.
An initial briefing meeting was held in January 1998 for all the CIG members. Then three series of meetings were held in February, March and May, at which the groups reviewed information and discussed the issues associated with each waste management topic area. The meetings were all open to members of the public. Topics covered were :The waste problem facing West Sussex
· Waste generation, present recycling and disposal methods in the County · Future waste reduction, re-use and recycling options
· Waste treatment and disposal options
· How all the options could be integrated to form a wastes management strategy
CIG conclusions on how waste should be managed in the future and feedback on individual optionsIn order to ensure that CIG members had an opportunity to follow up any questions and concerns an Expert Seminar was held in April 1998 where independent experts addressed particular issues of interest or concern.
CIG members were given the opportunity to see examples of waste sites and recycling facilities for themselves. They visited a Materials Recovery Facility(MRF) at Sompting, a landfill site at Warn ham and the SELCHP Energy from waste Incinerator in London.The main public record and output following each series of meetings was captured in the form of a Community Involvement Newsletter called “Waste Matters”. All the CIG members were given copies of the newsletters to distribute to their groups and organisations. The newsletter was also distributed as widely as possible : to parish councils, council members, district and borough councils, public libraries and information points throughout the county.
The resulting consultation document, “A Way with Waste”was produced using all the different levels of feedback outlined above The document provided the basis for the next stage of public consultation and was also carried out at various levels:
The draft document was issued to partner waste collection authorities and presentations were given in order to summarise the key issues of the strategy. The district and borough councils welcomed the opportunity to comment and considered the document both individually and collectively.
The document with an attached questionnaire was issued to over 400 appropriate organisations, the waste industry, interest groups and all invitees to the 1997 conference.
Approximately 20,000 leaflets summarising the key aims and thrusts of the proposed strategy,together with an attached questionnaire, was distributed to the public through council offices, libraries and information points. During December 1998, officers issued the leaflet at mobile and permanent civic amenity sites and were available to answer queries about the strategy.
An interactive public display took place at central locations - leisure centres and covered shopping malls - within each of the districts and boroughs during November 1998 where staff of both authorities were available to explain issues and to distribute the leaflet questionnaire. This gave as many people as possible in West Sussex to respond with their views.
A key strand of this further consultation was a further two CIG meetings held in early December 1998. All former CIG members were invited to participate in these meetings and approximately two thirds continued their active involvement. The feedback from these meetings provided an informed and detailed response to the drafts strategy which also provided a benchmark to assist in the analysis of responses from the wider consultation.
Results Achieved:A summary of the results of the community involvement programme is enclosed in the supporting documentation and was made available county wide.
The CIG members' recorded enthusiasm for their involvement indicates the degree to which they felt that they had been accurately informed of the issues, had enough time to consider and were interested in the subject. At the end of the process they rated the information they had received as being either “extremely” or “very” informative. They were asked how they would describe the experience of working in their groups and how they felt about being involved in the CIG programme over all.. Some of their comments are outlined below :
“Terrifying to start with, but increasingly more and more rewarding!”
“A refreshing change to be consulted”
The wider public consultation
Everyone is responsible for producing waste and therefore the County Council were concerned that the public should be given an opportunity to contribute to the debate. The wider public consultation carried out from November 1998 to January 1999 and was seen as a vital part of the strategy planning process to ensure that as many people as possible had the opportunity to comment on the draft strategy. It has become obvious that a feeling of being unable to influence any decision making process may be a main factor in the rising tide of objections affecting the waste disposal industry.
Detailed quantitative results from the public consultation questionnaires and written responses are enclosed in the supplementary information.
However, a summary is outlined below :
About 90% of respondents said they were aware of the waste problem, and thought people could do more to cut waste in their own homes.
· 50% said they composted kitchen and green garden waste at home, while a further 30% said they were prepared to make a start on home composting
· Over 95% of the people supported the principle of a long-term wastes management strategy, and almost as many said they thought the action plan proposed in the strategy was the right way to deal with the problems facing the County Council
· More than 60% thought that the target of halving by 2005 the rate of growth in the waste produced by each household was achievable
· 75% said that the target of recycling 30% of household waste by2005 could be achieved · Over 85% of respondents supported the principle of finding the best practicable environmental option for dealing with each type of waste.
· Three treatments….on-farm composting, central composting and incineration with energy recovery - were supported equally by three quarters of people as being either “very acceptable” or “acceptable”.
The unique strategy development process has secured value from community involvement which will benefit future wastes management, and also the broader provisions of public service in West Sussex. The County Council now has a good understanding of public views and concerns, and of the corresponding motivating factors. The waste management strategy, due to the nature of its development with public involvement from the outset, will be stronger and implementation is already proving to be more effective as it has been responsive to the community's expressed opinions and desired sustainability.
The willingness the CIG members expressed to be involved at every stage of implementation of the strategy illustrates the importance of the way in which the project has been carried out. This willingness can be seen in the following comment from one CIG member :
“ It needs to make local communities aware of the problems and it needs to look forward, winning over hearts and minds of the public who will have to have a waste treatment plant near them. And also to remember that we might be of use to you, and may be able to help educate the rest. We are half educated already regarding the portfolio of different options.”
The comments by the CIG members at the concluding meetings also reveal a strong level of support for the Council Council in the future and a recognition of that the complexity of the issues the strategy would have to address.
“My reaction to being invited to take part was to draw a deep breath - I was delighted though and the process is encouraging - community feedback is essential especially in the longer term - I know a lot more now and was enabled not disabled by the complexity if it “
“The fact that the County Council undertook this exercise is positive - getting feedback before they have a strategy. I don't envy their task and wish them luck with it but I am encouraged by this process it is a bold step by West Sussex County Council. “
The above comments also reveal a greater trust in the decision making process stemming from the belief that public concerns and interests would inform the strategy development and implementation in achieving sustainable waste management.
A comparison can be drawn between the above comments of support to those at the briefing meeting. Some CIG members were initially skeptical of the process and made the following comments :
“Too little, too late”
“I feel I may be being used to hoodwink others”
“Lord preserve us from unnecessary bureaucracy”
During the extensive consultation process undertaken by West Sussex, involving a very wide spectrum of people and organisations, much time was taken to increase the awareness and knowledge of those opinion formers who participated in the process. Their continued involvement and ownership will assist the County Council in any further development and implementation of the strategy. Working with the community will continue to develop better services in West Sussex and give a clearer understanding of best practice for dealing with waste.
Lessons Learned :
The major success of the project lies in the fact that the path to put the project together was set out before embarking on the initial stages. The timetable was kept to all the way through the project in order to ensure that all communities and interested parties had been consulted and their input drawn together at the critical time giving strength and credibility to the final strategy and even in its subsequent implementation.
The final strategy document, “A Way with Waste”was published in June 1999. It is very important to West Sussex County Council that producing strategy was not the end of the project as having a strategy does not in itself solve the waste problem but merely charts a course of action. Achieving that goal can only be achieved by implementing the strategy. This work is already underway in co-operation with the West Sussex District and Borough Councils. The strategy process proved the importance and effectiveness of joint working and marked a complete change in direction for all future initiatives in West Sussex.
The next steps and probably the biggest challenge for West Sussex County Council is to put initiatives in place that would drive towards achievement of the targets outlined in the strategy. Examples of current initiatives are :
County-wide home composting initiative- it has become apparent that the most appropriate method to allocate County Council's budget for home composting was on the basis of match funding for actual sales made across the whole of the county.
To support the initiative a performance monitoring scheme is now being developed in partnership to measure the continued effective use of the home composters sold.
County-wide nappy waste reduction initiative - one readily identifiable element of household waste is used disposable nappies, which is estimated to make up some 5% of total household waste. West Sussex introduced a publicity and financial incentive campaign to promote the use of alternatives to disposable nappies. The campaign had to achieve both medium and long term benefits as we are seeking a change in behaviour and attitude.
The financial incentives provided by the County Council are drawn from the potential savings from the disposal budget and has proved a success as in the first six months nearly 2 million disposables have been avoided.
A local hospital has agreed to change their “on-ward” policy to only use reusables in their maternity and pediatric departments. This has been achieved by using the strengths of partnership working between the health authority, the County Council and a local nappy laundering company.
Central Government have informed West Sussex County Council that they would like to use the initiative as an example of “Best Practice” in forthcoming guidance publications on Waste Minimisation.
To support the outlined initiatives West Sussex County Council have produced a number of information leaflets outlined below :
1.“Reducing Waste at Work” - a leaflet giving practical tips about how to reduce waste in the office
2. “How to be less wasteful -what you can do to help solve the problem of waste”- a leaflet giving practical tips about how to reduce waste at home, kitchen, garden and shops
3.“Buy Recycled “ booklet - a guide to help find out where to buy recycled products locally
4.“West Sussex Recycling Guide” - a guide to help residents of West Sussex find recycling facilities closest to their home or work
This project can be developed in other communities because even though the strategy is designed to be robust in the long term it can be designed and carried out on a small local level. The County Council were asked to facilitate a workshop at the Institute of Waste Management Conference in June 1999. The seminar was attended by other authorities wishing to replicate the West Sussex example in preparing a similar strategy.
The only criticism of the project was that it was felt by some parties that the time taken for the full public consultation was not sufficient. It was unfortunate that the consultation period ran from November 19998 to January 1999 as it was interrupted by the Christmas period. If the County Council started the project again, perhaps for the introduction of another service within waste management a greater public consultation period would be considered.
However, having a longer consultation time can lose the “momentum” of a project. This did seem apparent when we reconvened the CIGs to comment on the consultation draft strategy because officers discovered that the basic principles and issues had to be readdressed before they were able to move the implementation plan forward. As a result West Sussex County Council are aware that there will be a need to regularly reinforce the strategy but it is certain that the framework is set for waste management.