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Managing Waste in Colchester

Exemplar Award Winner- Integration Award Runner-up 2013: Colchester Borough Council

Refuse collection is a very visible service delivered by councils. It can also be a very costly service and, as such, efficiencies made in waste management can have high returns. This case study explores efficiencies created by Colchester Borough Council.


Following a review of the Operational Services department which manages waste collection, Colchester became aware of the need to review and develop improved waste collection data. The data were used to recalibrate and underpin collection routes. Furthermore, improved processes were required to keep the data up to date and include additional information, such as missed bins, bin contamination and so forth.


The solution required a method of creating and managing refuse collection data for approximately 200,000 property records. The basis of the waste collection data was the Local Land and Property Gazetteer. The new waste collection routes were developed – 150 in total. Using the Unique Property Reference Number (UPRN) from the LLPG meant the new routes were accurate and realistic. A data validation exercise was carried out to remove duplicates and complete any missing records. The structure of the LLPG meant the team could also create routes for proposed new housing developments, future proofing the project as much as possible. Mapping the coordinates against the UPRN meant that the data could be spatially represented for staff in the office and waste collection teams. The process to create this involved:

• creating a polyline road network, utilising the Unique Street Reference Number from the Local Street Gazetteer in mapping software

• the property polygon maps were linked to the road network dataset so that individual routes could be created

• work was then done to ensure the process was repeatable to ensure the data could be properly kept up to date. This involved creating a program that would automatically validate new data against existing waste collection routes, avoiding manual input into the process.

Address and street data were critical to the implementation and ongoing needs of this project. The data structure, i.e. the ability to identify type of property, proved valuable to the process. Additionally, retaining the UPRN adds an extra level of granularity which means queries – for example refuse collection day – can be done by property rather than by street which vastly improves accuracy as one street can contain several collection types.

In addition to the LLPG and Local Street Gazetteer (LSG), the project also utilised Ordnance Survey MasterMap data and also the ITN product.


The project is going through user acceptance testing. However, the following benefits have already been realised:

• accurate and more efficient refuse routes

• the ability to report an event (such as a missed bin) dynamically on a collection route

• a robust system of updating the data using the LLPG on a scheduled basis

• facilitating resident self-serving options, such as online collection look up, rather than telephone queries.

Authority view

“The existing data used for waste management by Colchester Borough Council were not exact enough to provide an optimum service because, in many streets, the mix of housing types presents different demands in collecting refuse and recycling. By matching this data down to individual properties in the Borough, we have been able to create a much more accurate digest of waste management information which we can use to tweak collection routes, communicate with residents about collections and liaise with councillors, and provide a much more efficient and cost effective service.”

—Matt Sterling – Assistant Chief Executive.

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