Steps to an Effective Mobilisation of a New Recycling System

 In Blog

When British Airways opened its new flagship T5 terminal at Heathrow in 2008, a breakdown in the baggage handling system on the first day resulted in dozens of flights being cancelled and left staff dealing with a backlog of 15,000 bags. Whilst the reality (or certainly my experience) is that flying from T5 is generally a pleasant experience, and the terminal is as efficient and well designed as any of its international counterparts; for many their expectation is still limited by that fateful day – seven years ago.

Implementation and mobilisation of a new recycling system may not attract as much national attention as a £4.3 billion airport terminal but it is no different when it comes to the simple fact that first impressions count.  Any negative issues that users experience on day one have the potential to impact long-term on their perception of the new system both in terms of its ease of use and its effectiveness.  It is also probably true to say that mobilisation is often not given the focus it deserves and it is just a ‘given’ once the strategy and commercials have been agreed.

So whilst no mobilisation is 100% risk free there are a few steps you can take to ensure that the transition from the old to new system is as smooth as possible.

Firstly, have a plan and ensure that this plan has sufficient headroom and contingency.  No doubt a great deal of time will have been taken to devise and document an effective Waste Strategy, so it seems obvious to have a plan which lays down how you intend to implement this strategy.  This plan will help to ensure that all the equipment, plant and personnel required for installation are ready on-site, on time and importantly in the right order. Ensuring correct sequence of events is critical when you are co-ordinating a significant volume of suppliers, equipment, signage, communications and people.  The plan should also include all the necessary management systems information such as H&S policy, risk and method statements.

Another important consideration is training for the teams who will be operating any mobile plant or on-site equipment such as balers or compactors.  This not only has obvious H&S implications but also helps to ensure that the efforts of the users to segregate certain materials is not undone in the collection and transport of this material.  As part of a recent roll-out for a major brand outlet centre we allocated three full days of training for on-site waste and recycling operatives.

Ultimately, you can have the best recycling solution on the planet but if people do not understand how it operates then it becomes completely ineffective.  Communication with waste producers is a vital part of any mobilisation.  Alongside the training programme I mentioned earlier was a full communications plan, which included face-to-face briefings with staff from each of the 100 plus retail outlets.  It is important to focus as much on the why, as the how and to explain the implications to users of failing to use the system correctly.  This ability to build a direct and hopefully emotional link between a person’s actions and the result can be very powerful in improving participation rates and reducing contamination.

It is also important to have an open and clear line of communication between the contract manager and the customer.   This is best achieved through the appointment of an Account Manager who is able to invest the time needed to understand the customer’s business and the pressures, opportunities and challenges they face. Building relationships with a range of contacts enables the Account Manager to fully embed themselves in the customer’s business and help identify new opportunities as well as ensuring issues are resolved swiftly and effectively.

Lastly, delivery. Despite this being part of the next stage of the process it still has a part to play in the mobilisation. I would always build into my plan the set-up of processes and back office support infrastructure, so it is ready to start the day-to-day running once mobilisation is complete. I mentioned earlier that first impressions count, but the bit after is also just as important. If the management of the new system falls over then that first impression will mean very little.

When installing a new recycling system we must remember that for its users, the environmental or commercial benefits of such a system are not their primary concern.  Most people these days want to do the right thing but ultimately retailers want to sell products, manufacturers want to make stuff and colleges and universities want to teach and learn.

If the recycling systems they are provided with, works first time and they are immediately clear on how they work and the benefits; then you give yourself every chance of an effective long-term solution.  Get it wrong and it can take a long time and a lot of effort to recover disengaged users who ‘can’t see the need for change’ or are sceptical about whether their actions will really have any impact at all.