Marcus Machell, UK New Product Manager in CONTENURshows the development in the UK of underground waste collection.

– Is URS popular in the UK and what are the challenges of creating a new market for this product?

M: URS is still in its relative infancy in the UK. There are approximately 2.000 units across the country – many of these are in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. This Local Authority pioneered the use of underground refuse systems over 15 years ago and now insist on installing them in all their new developments and regeneration projects. Cambridge also has many units and is using URS in new housing developments as the principle waste collection method instead of wheelie bins.

The challenge we face in growing this market is influencing specifiers of the benefits that URS can bring to all the stakeholders in the process and not least, residents themselves. And because the stakeholders are many, we must play different roles as part of the process – influencer, consultant, product specialist and project manager to name a few. The reasons for this are that benefits for developpers or builders for example, are different to those of the client and of the local authority who will service the bins. All these roles are critical to help URS become more mainstream in the UK. When these benefits are more widely known then we can move our focus to be the global manufacturer and product specialist of URS that we are in other markets

– How is CONTENUR performing with URS in the UK market?

M: Our position and acceptance in the market is gaining momentum year on year and continues to grow as the market evolves. We have installed significant projects that have been critical to establishing CONTENUR as a recognised supplier in the UK and we are now using these completed projects as reference sites for future prospective clients. Our largest project to date is almost complete and we have a strong pipeline of large projects in various stages of progress.  I believe it  is important to evolve the business and the product slowly to ensure the long-term success of our role in this market and I’m sure that as the market itself moves forward, CONTENUR will be at the forefront of URS supply in the UK.

That said, URS is not yet a commodity product like our other waste container products and while this is the case, we will continue to play a consultative and multi-facetted role. There are knowledge gaps in understanding URS and its suitability over traditional wheeled bins in urban and city environments, but the tide is beginning to turn for URS and there is a strong demand to incorporate the benefits of URS in the design of new urban living projects and improve the way we deposit and collect waste in built up residential environments. So long-tern, the future is bright.

–  Who are our clients in the UK market and how does URS help them?

M: The first part of this question is complicated as there is not a tried and tested procurement model for buying URS in the UK (like there is for purchasing wheeled bins for example or for purchasing URS bins in Europe). As a result, our clients can be any of the following: Local Authorities, Housing Associations, Private Companies, Construction Companies, subcontracted groundworkers or builders’ merchants. Each URS specified project will have a different process for buying URS and will likely result in us having a different client for each project. However, the above are all key stakeholders in the long process of incorporating URS as the chosen waste collection method in new build projects and equally important to ensuring the growth and development of URS in the UK – irrespective of who finally becomes our client at the end of the procurement process. Not included here as clients but who are of equal importance are architects and waste management consultants; essential in proposing the values of URS and designing them in to new projects and urban regeneration plans.

Without them, URS would not evolve at all. URS helps clients by enabling them to:

  • Maximise the space available for their project(s) and increases the number of units they can sell and as a result improves the return on their investment. URS is located at the front of buildings or in space designed for landscaping – unlike traditional bin stores that are often at the rear of buildings
  • URS is a more suitable method of waste disposal and collection for flats in high density, urban environments: the equivalent volume of 5 large wheelie bins is stored underground and in a more convenient location for residents to use them.
  • It is something new and engages with residents in a way that traditional bins stores do not.
  • It is more efficient for the Local Authirity to empty URS bins, with fewer journeys required, reduced operational costs, better CO2 footprint, increased levels and quality of collected recycled

–  Where is URS most popular in the UK?

M: URS is largely Londoncentric but there are other hot spots around the country such as Cambridge, Bedford, Peterborough, Edinburgh and soon to be Liverpool. For URS to become more of a de-facto choice for waste collection, it should to be incorporated in to the ‘Waste Strategy Planning’ document of every Local Authority in the Counctry (426). This way, URS is endorsed as the most appropriate waste collection system for flats or houses in urban environments. At present there is no legislation to do this or legislation for it to be adhered to where forward thinking Local Authorities have included URS in their waste strategies. So, until there is legislative change to support this, URS will evolve at an organic rate instead of a step change, which is what is needed to bring change to this sector. This is not an easy process and we as a manufacturer have limited influence in this area.

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