Helping Oxford stay on top of the recycling league

Written by: Geraldine Faulkner | Published:
Special Report

On the tight streets of historic Oxford, the council is using Dennis Eagle's Olympus 19 6x2 rear steer RCV as part of a sophisticated waste collection regime as it bids to boost its recycling rate. Geraldine Faulkner reports

Nothing much appears to faze Neil Crowder. After 17 years of working as a bin man for Oxford City Council and dealing with the daily challenges of waste collection in a city that boasts a transient population of 9.1 million per annum, you have to develop a unique skill-set.

Ian Bourton, fleet and business services manager, sets the scene. "Oxford occupies 17.9 square miles and is not so much a rural area as a city with lots of open space," he explains. "We have 152,000 residents and serve 65,000 residences. On top of which, we have a high transient population, comprised of students and tourists, which generates a lot of recyclates and waste.

"Oxford Direct Services is an in-house department of the city council that takes care of services such as waste collection, street cleaning and recycling."

In-house option

Why did the council opt for the in-house option when it came to waste? "We carried out a fundamental service review in 2010 and the decision was taken to retain it in-house. On the back of that, we delivered some significant changes – for instance, we went from a kerbside sorting collection to a wheelie bin and a materials recycling facility.

"We also started a garden waste collection and decided to go for a four-day week for the crews as opposed to a five-day week," explains Bourton.

"This means that bank holidays are no longer an issue." Crowder takes up the story: "It's no longer a case of 'task and finish', which was when the bin crews used to go home as soon as they completed their round; it's a buddy system now. This means that if one crew finishes ahead of another, they go to help the other crew. Also, we have set working hours and it's no longer a case of going home as soon as you've finished."

Educating Oxford

At Oxford there are five crews on the recycling round and five crews that take care of collecting residual waste. "We run an alternative fortnightly collection as well as a weekly food waste collection, which gets taken to an anaerobic digestion facility," says Crowder.

Bourton and Crowder are both clearly pleased that Oxford is currently listed third in the national recycling league table but, at the same time, they are under no illusions as to the challenges of increasing the city's recycling rates. Bourton again: "The population is so transient and it means you have to start a new communication campaign every year to educate the students when it comes to recycling. The council's target is 45% this year and they're expecting to come in at 46%, but it's challenging with such a high student population and small rural areas creating low garden waste volume."

Crowder points to how things have changed in the city. "We used to have weekly collections with all the refuse going into the same bin. Now, it's hard to believe the amount of recycling we get out of the refuse. But it's frustrating when a student tosses food into a bag of recycling. This means the contents are contaminated and you lose the lot."

Hi-tech efficiency

As well as keeping an eye out for the possibility of contamination, or explaining to residents what goes into which bin,

Crowder and his colleagues have also had to adapt to new and sophisticated refuse collection vehicles.

Enter the Dennis Eagle Olympus 19 6x2 rear steer with Terberg bin lift, a narrow-track vehicle that conforms to stringent Euro 6 emissions rules and suits Oxford Direct Services in collecting waste from the city's often narrow streets.

In the city's congested roads, the refuse collection vehicles (RCVs) come equipped with cab management systems (CMSs), giving real-time information on the collection rounds being undertaken on factors such as which houses have put out their bins and which have not.

"Let's say that Number 22 rings in to claim their recycling bin has been missed – the contact centre will check the CMS, where it has been recorded that the bin wasn't collected because it contained food waste and was therefore contaminated," explains Bourton.

Crowder adds: "Before we had the system, the bin crew would have had to go back. You could be three miles up the road and you'd have to go all the way back to collect the bins. When you think about the amount of fuel we used to use, not to mention the time of three crew members, it all added up to a lot of extra and unnecessary expense, and it wasn't the fault of the council that we were darting about all over the city."

Knowledge is power

Bob Tottey, regional sales manager at Dennis Eagle, says that the company is integrating a growing amount of technology into its production processes, including telematics and overload protection equipment.

"The Dennis Eagle Loadsense system on the vehicle helps the driver to identify how much weight he has and ensures he's operating within the legal limit," states Tottey. "You don't know what goes into bins, which can include items such as rubble.

"People tend to hide things in the bottom of the bins and the crew will only spot them once the contents have been tipped into the truck. It's important that a driver knows what is in the vehicle as it's illegal to drive one that is overweight, not to mention the damage that heavy items can cause to the truck.

"When you think about it, most vehicles go out loaded and come back empty. It's the opposite for us, of course."

The vehicle can also be optimised to suit the waste it is collecting.

"Each waste material has a different mass," Crowder points out. "Garden waste has a higher density as it's wet, so it means having to reset things like hydraulic pressures."

Tottey suggests that, in future, these are things that could be adjusted remotely, from a software package in the back office linked to the vehicle. "We're trialling issues such as this on our existing Euro 6 vehicles," he says.

Fuel savings

The power of telematics systems can also be harnessed to provide tangible fuel savings. "We get a schedule on the driver's behaviour every day and can see the effect it has on the truck's fuel consumption. For instance, harsh braking causes excess fuel consumption. We analyse the data and sit down with the drivers to explain the difference their driving can make," states Bourton. But while sophisticated electronics are undoubtedly of great importance, the ultimate function of the RCV is to collect as much waste as possible. "Payload is king," states Tottey, so while the RCVs employed in Oxford need to be narrower, they must still be capable of holding as much tonnage as possible.

According to Tottey, its trucks are unique
in that the company manufactures both the low-entry chassis and the refuse body.

"Our engineers design the chassis and the body to complement each other, meaning they are millimetre-perfect," he says. "This means we can get the body as far forward to the cab as possible, providing a short wheelbase which ultimately results in a more manoeuvrable vehicle."

FACT FILE: Elite 6 chassis

Along with features such as low-level cab entry, sophisticated CMS and rear steer, this explains why Crowder looks so confident in his truck.

- Fully compliant with Euro 6
environmental standards

- Six cylinder, D8K 7.7 litre engine available with 280 or 320 brake horsepower

- Single-step low entry and walkthrough cab floor provides ease of access

- Panoramic cab with narrowed 'A' and 'B' posts ensure unobscured view

- Selective catalytic reduction, exhaust gas recirculation and diesel particulate filter

- Electronic braking system, electronic stability control, brake assist and emergency brake signal for added safety

Company information

Warwick-based refuse collection vehicle manufacturer Dennis Eagle has an engineering heritage that dates back to the turn of the century. The company produces chassis and bodies, supplying a wide range of bespoke refuse and recycling solutions to meet the needs of its customers, both in the UK and overseas. It currently produces over 1,000 units per year and employs a workforce of over 600 across its manufacturing and service network. For more information on Dennis Eagle, visit

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