Having formally recognised the global Climate Emergency, Ards and North Down Borough Council is working across a multi-themed platform to maximise its contribution to tackling this emergency. Amongst ever-developing related strategies, our Sustainable Waste Resource Management Strategy has had a huge impact. The overarching aim of the Recycling Community Investment Fund (RCIF) is about enabling systemic change in the attitudes and behaviours of residents right across the Borough (and beyond), to instinctively protect and enhance our environment. The RCIF slogan is ‘Your Recycling Pays’.
There are three broad aims of the Fund: a) To incentivise positive recycling behaviours, through reinvestment of consequent landfill tax savings and put directly back into supporting those communities; b) To maximise the diversity of positive community impacts achieved by the fund, both in terms of geographic spread across the Borough and types of community support; c) To contribute to the delivery of the target outcomes set out in the Borough’s Community Plan.
The following methodology was decided on: Individual projects within the fund spanned a range of internal Council projects - litter (litter picking packs and beach boards), waste (big belly bins), education (schools recycling, summer scheme projects, Forest Schools and CLEAR), village facelifts (minor works), home safety (for the vulnerable), local businesses (compostable packaging) and Refillution.
As well as internal partnerships the Council also worked with other external stakeholders. Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful is an ongoing partner of the Council and through their eco-schools project helps deliver on the educational side of this and through the Live Here Love Here Campaign. Projects were also developed with local schools, community groups, summer schemes, Citizen Sea and local businesses.
Useful Learnings from RCIF
The Recycling Community Investment Fund (RCIF) was created from the monetary savings achieved by diverting food from landfill. This funding was used to develop a package of unique initiatives aimed at proactively protecting and enhancing our natural environment, whilst addressing all three pillars of sustainability.
Background research and potential projects came from a number of existing internal Council ideas and projects. Specific actions would address existing problems, eg cigarette butts - the Council purchased and installed 25 'ballot bins' at smoking hotspots across the Borough with the aim of reducing cigarette butt litter by 46%. Based on the frequency of emptying these compared to standard bins it was concluded that these ballot bins were successful in reaching these targets.
Other operational actions were developed based on existing Council data on waste generation, litter, community group interest and demand etc.
The operational success of these projects was only as successful as the communication about them. The core message 'Your Recycling Pays' was delivered through project branding and well communicated on various platforms - social media. online, newspapers, radio and TV.
The Council works at a very grassroots local level and as a result, many of the projects taken forward were already waiting in the wings or sitting as an idea to be explored. The process of developing the project action plan broke down many internal barriers, through cross-Council working and encouraged staff to 'think outside the box'.
The biggest barrier to establishing the RCIF was initially convincing Elected Members of the potential merits of the concept; that multiple social, economic and environmental benefits could be accrued from a modest investment. This initiative seeks to ‘break the mould’ in terms of how the public is encouraged to better engage in recycling and waste reduction.
Other barriers to the RCIF which had to be overcome, included...
- ensuring a balanced (social, environmental, economic) approach to the identification/ selection of projects that benefit from RCIF addressed by a multidisciplinary team of staff internally and engagement with a wide range of external stakeholders (KNIB, community groups, etc),
- maintaining the profile of RCIF against other competing Council initiatives/projects, addressed by allocation of communications officer with focussed RCIF brief ensuring that momentum is maintained in the marketing of key RCIF messages and RCIF funded projects,
- key partnerships with other external stakeholders (eg, KNIB), utilising their communications platforms and networks to promote RCIF.
Increase in education/learning - via survey.
Number of bags of litter.
Number of businesses 'buying in'.
The budget to fund RCIF was initially achieved via direct savings made when food waste when it was banned from landfill bins. This is part of the Council's Sustainable Waste Resource Management Strategy.