Recycling Centres for Household Waste public opinion research


Essex County Council (ECC) Recycling Centres for Household Waste (RCHWs) services have responded to a series of challenges over the years in a largely reactive manner. This has led to a service likely to have a level of inefficiency embedded within it as well as some duplication with other services provided by ECC and local district/borough councils. With contractual arrangements to operate the 21 sites (11 full-time and 10 part-time) nearing expiry provided ECC with an opportunity to reshape both the contracting model and the service provision itself. The research addressed the following areas:

  • What residents expect from a Recycling Centre service and how services could be improved;
  • Whether residents would be willing to pay for an enhanced service;
  • understanding why ECC residents did not use the RCHW service;
  • What information residents expect to receive from their county council on waste reduction and recycling issues and what waste campaigns residents were aware/not aware of;
  • which other local waste related issues residents were concerned about.


To gather public opinions on the RCHW services provided, over 1,100 face-to-face surveys were completed across 8 RCHWs within Essex. In addition, 350 surveys were completed with non users through on street interviews in 5 town centres. To gather in-depth information from both users and non users 4 focus groups were held at local venues that were facilitated by M·E·L Research.


The priorities for users were that sites should be close to home (within 15 minutes), have friendly /helpful staff, clear signage and non restrictive opening times. The main reasons why residents did for not use sites were that they had no waste to take, partly due to good kerbside collections but also due to lack of awareness to use Bulky Waste Collections and lack of transport. This information helped to review the next RCHW contract to provide a more efficient service across Essex.

The research also tested recognition of a number of communications campaigns with the Home Composting campaign and the National Recycle Swoosh being most recognised. Residents provided a number of recommendations on how to improve the actual campaign message and where to present to increase awareness.