Zero Waste Derry & Strabane

Local Gov't • Derry City and Strabane

Derry City and Strabane District Council is creating a zero waste circular economy, by preventing waste creation, encouraging its preparation for re-use and delivering separate waste collections for recycling, composting and digestion.

Derry City and Strabane District Council's story

Derry City and Strabane District Council is one of the first local authorities in the UK to create a zero waste circular economy strategy. Waste is a climate issue due to the emissions caused in manufacturing products that are then thrown away, and due to the methane gases released at landfill sites.

The council says it is working towards an economy where resources are used for as long as possible, have maximum value extracted from them and are recovered and regenerated at the end of their service life.

This is a core element of the region's Inclusive Strategic Growth Plan, and has helped the area win Zero Waste City Region designation from Zero Waste Europe.

The strategy has three key aims, in order of priority:
1. In the first place, preventing waste creation, encouraging reuse, improving the design of products, and extending product life cycles.
2. Encouraging its preparation for re-use.
3. Delivering separate waste collections for recycling, composting and digestion.

The council seeks to ensure that residual waste which is unable to be recycled is treated prior to disposal, to reduce its environmental impact.

The authority has outlined 37 key policy actions that will help it cut or eliminate waste and pollution from council services and activity, increase the re-use of materials and products and to develop regenerative natural systems.

To make these plans achievable, the council is attempting to shift local attitudes and behaviour to redefine waste as a vital resource. Its tactics are changes to collection methods combined with public education on the issue.

The council is also moving its focus away from the percentages and amounts of different material gathered for recycling to the quality of the material eventually produced through the recycling process. This is important in creating future value on the commodity market as part of a circular economy.

Reuse and Recycling:
The local authority is upgrading its household waste and recycling centres and expanding food and garden waste collections to reduce the amount of valuable waste materials entering landfill. The council is also developing a reuse and recycle economy through a partnership with New2You Reuse Centre, a local social enterprise.

Green Procurement Strategy:
The council has also introduced green procurement policies into plans and contracts. It is in the process of adopting new criteria for all purchasing activity.

Local and Sustainable Food:
Food management is a key to creating a circular economy. Derry and Strabane views sustainable food production as a key priority. Its ultimate goal is a city that feeds itself.

Refurbished Laptops:
A laptop donation scheme has helped children who had no access to a device with home-schooling during the pandemic. In partnership with North West Greenway Network, Sustrans and Zero Waste North West, 400 laptops were refurbished. The project also prompted wider action from central government.

Useful learnings from Derry City and Strabane District Council

Set up internal working groups:
In order to ensure its strategy and policy actions are delivered, the local authority set up a series of internal circular economy working groups. These groups develop procurement criteria, measure impacts and work with local stakeholders to create sustainability checklists and pledges.

Working in collaboration:
A fundamental aspect to getting buy-in for circular economy plans is to work in collaboration with other partners. A key partner for developing and implementing the overall strategy has been Zero Waste North West. The grassroots organisation play an important role in developing policy actions, as well as supporting the council with wider public engagement to encourage behaviour change related to re-use and recycling.

Adopting the business case for a circular economy:
With the council under increasing financial pressure, there is a strong business case for adding circular economy waste policies into city plans. There are clear economic benefits to designing a system which can extract value from a better management of products.

The council estimate its annual bill for waste management is £10.2 million, and believes that adopting circular economy principles can create savings of £3.1 million per year, while also creating over 190 new green jobs. Furthermore, over 90% of dry recyclable materials handled by the council are exported, creating potential loss of value and employment opportunities that could be kept within the local economy.

Use of technology:
Another key factor to the council's success has been the development of technology as a means for engagement including:

-The European Union-founded Emergreen Project, helps local people access information on waste through the development of a chat-box tool on the council's website, a waste app and a new recycling website.
-The City Deal Programme with Ulster University supports digital innovation and manufacturing technologies to test designs which make waste products easier to reuse and recycle.

Derry City and Strabane District Council's metrics

Action to raise awareness and spark behavioural change across the region is already starting to have an impact. Before the development of a circular economy plan, the council had the lowest recycling rates in Northern Ireland at only 33%. By March 2021, this rate had increased to 48%. Its landfill rates are also falling, from 14.38% in April 2019-March 2020 to 8.87% in April 2020-March 2021.

There are also social impacts being delivered including the mental and physical health benefits of the food growing project and educational benefits of the laptop project.

It is important to consider that many innovative impacts from this strategy will be effective in the long term, such as influencing product design, and re-localising processing of waste into useful materials.

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Updated Feb, 2024

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