Raynesway Household Waste and Recycling Centre (HWRC) opened it gates for the first time in mid-May – just under two months after the pandemic forced its closure. The site serves the whole city and allows residents to recycle unwanted and broken items or dispose of waste.

Although necessary, its closure disrupted a key service for residents, and it was important we were prepared to get it up and running as soon as it was deemed safe to do so.

Before opening, an immense amount of work had to happen behind-the-scenes – a joint effort by teams across the Council. Colleagues from Waste Management, Traffic and Transport, Parking Services, Communications and Marketing, and more all came together to take on the complex task.

The crucial question was how could we open the site and make it safe? Ian Drury, Head of Service for Waste Disposal and Fleet Management, knew that the centre would need to be redesigned to keep everyone safe.

“Redesigning the site layout was challenging. We knew that demand would be huge, but we would also need to reduce the capacity of the site to make it as safe as we could,” he said.

Pre-Coronavirus, we had a lot of bays that all took different types of waste. We could have kept this layout, but it would have increased the risk to residents and staff. Working with HW Martins (the contractor that runs the site for us) we decided to close some bays and rearrange others so that each could take more than one type of waste.”

The next challenge was preventing other issues such as queuing traffic, which would not just cause disruption for drivers but also would also have knock-on delays and disruption to bin collections elsewhere in the city.

“We were encouraging residents to use their usual kerbside collections and we didn’t want to affect our ability to do that,” added Ian. “If the road became congested with residents queuing to use the HWRC, it could have severely impacted our ability to empty bins. Initially we decided to reduce the opening hours of the site so it was closed while we were out emptying residents’ bins.”

Ian worked with colleagues in Parking Services and Traffic and Transport who suggested using the parking app, MiPermit.

“We had seen other Councils using booking systems for their HWRCs and knew that MiPermit would work perfectly for us, here in Derby.” Said the team. “Once Ian had explained what we needed to do, we worked with MiPermit and in a matter of days they had developed a simple booking system with the ability to expand and modify the system as needed.  Although several Councils use MiPermit for parking, we’re the first Council to use it for this purpose – it’s quite exciting!”

One of the key parts of the project was communicating to residents.

A two-phase communications plan was drawn up by the Communications and Marketing team. The first phase would focus on key messaging about changes to the site (such as having to book a slot) and only making essential visits.

The team commented:

“We decided to issue key messages and information about the changes before we gave a reopening date or ability to book a slot. Residents were keen to hear about Raynesway so they were able to take on board the new rules before planning their visit. It was really great that our colleagues in the Parking Services team were able to create a step-by-step video of the booking process that we could share with residents on our website and social media.”

The simple messaging and booking system meant that in the first week over 98% of bookings had been made online, allowing colleagues in Derby Direct to carry on with their amazing Community Hub work.

We had to use as many channels as possible to make sure the message was spread and that’s where colleagues in Traffic and Transport were able to support the Communications and Marketing team.

Colleagues in the Traffic and Transport team worked with the Communications and Marketing team to help make sure the highway signage was effective but not distracting for drivers across the city.

A member of the Traffic and Transport team said: “Creating highway signage can be tricky and I was happy to work with Communications and Marketing colleagues under tight timescales to make sure we could get the messages right but also design signage that was safe to be used on our roads.”

In the first few days of the site opening, there were only a handful of residents who had arrived at the site without a booking. This showed that the strong and simple messaging had been effective, and residents quickly got in touch with feedback saying how much they liked the new system!

As the site continues to operate under the new system, there have been no issues with traffic and numbers of residents visiting without a booking has also remained minimal.

Looking to the future, Ian and the other teams will continue to work together to develop the existing booking system for Derby and have even presented to several Welsh Councils who were so impressed with the Derby model that they’ve taken it on for themselves!