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Benchmarking and best practice

A common practice is to compare our own performance to other local authorities of a similar demographic. We call this benchmarking. We also benchmark with authorities that perform well in general to identify best practice. This process then helps to inform our own strategy of what needs to be done to increase our performance. The following summarises the research carried out to support the waste strategy.

Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA)

The CIPFA Nearest Neighbour Model measures the similarity between local authorities, taking into account a wide range of variables that impact on the socio-economic and demographic of the authority. Recognised by central and local government the model gives ‘family’ groups for Audit Commissions value for money profiles and is widely accepted as a sound method for determining comparable authorities.

Eunomia carried out a benchmarking exercise based on South Gloucestershire’s ‘nearest neighbours’ according to the CIPFA model with a selection of variables that look at deprivation, age profile, household size and ethnic profile as these are mostly relevant to waste composition. Performance was compared using waste data flow analysis from 2013-14.

Food Waste

By looking at the 50 ‘nearest neighbours’ that offer a fortnightly collection of residual waste and weekly collections of food recycling, then comparing performance for authorities that use 240 litre bins to those that use 180 litre bins the following was found:

  • Average food recycling in areas where 240 litre bins were used came to 61kg per household per year.
  • This increased to 67 kg per household per year in areas that used 180 litre bins.
  • South Gloucestershire is significantly below the average with a 240 litre bin, at 47kg per household per year.
  • If South Gloucestershire could achieve the average of 67kg per household per year of food waste it would be an extra 2,260 tonnes a year.

There was insufficient information available to compare 140 litre bins, but it is likely that the increase in food recycling would be higher with smaller residual capacity.

Fortnightly to weekly recycling

Using the ‘nearest neighbour’ authorities with a fortnightly collection of residual waste, a comparison was made of recycling rates between weekly and fortnightly recycling collections. The analysis included residual waste capacity of both 240 and 180 litre. The comparison showed:

  • The median average was 163 kg of dry recycling per household per year on a fortnightly collection compared to 201kg on a weekly collection, a difference of 38 kg per household per year.
  • A weekly recycling collection could generate an extra 4,294 tonnes of dry recycling a year for South Gloucestershire.

As part of the research there were no comparative case studies where authorities changed from fortnightly to weekly without any other service change.

Residual waste arising (non-recyclable waste)

The 50 ‘nearest neighbours’ that collect residual waste fortnightly and offer a food recycling service were also compared.

  • The average yields for authorities with 240 litre bins ranged between 366 – 371 kg per household per year, depending on the dry recycling service also offered.
  • The authorities that used 180 litre bins were lower at 355 kg per household per year.
  • Stockport, the only local authority using a 140 litre bin, had significantly lower residual waste at 252kg per household per year.
  • If South Gloucestershire collected the average for a 180 litre bin it would reduce residual waste arisings by 7,910 tonnes a year.
  • Using a 140 litre bin could reduce residual waste arisings by 19,549 tonnes a year.

Wrap report

The Waste and Resource Action Programme (WRAP) specialises in sustainability and waste management. It provides waste research, evidence and advice which is widely used by Local Government to help inform waste management strategies and policies as well the general public and small medium enterprises.

In July 2015 WRAP released a report analysing recycling performance and waste arisings in the UK, based on data from 2012-13. The report had two specific objectives:

  1. To identify the main factors responsible for variability in recycling performance
  2. To quantify the impact that specific factors have on the recycling performance of local authorities

The report looked at five response variables and seven predictor variables

Response variables


Predictor variables
Nationally reported local authority recycling rates Dry recycling service for five main items: glass, card, paper, cans and plastic bottles
Total dry recycling collected from all sources (kg per household per year) Additional dry recycling items: plastic pots, tubs and trays and textiles
Total biodegradable waste collected for recycling all sources (kg per household per year)  Weekly residual containment capacity (Space available for residual waste per week)
Total residual waste collected from all  sources (kg per household per year) Dry recycling separated from residual waste after collection
Total waste collected(kg per household per year) Garden waste collection type
Food waste collection type
Contextual variables such as working age population, rural indictors.

The report covered three datasets and two are of interest; the English Unitary Authorities (57 in dataset) and UK Unitary Authorities (104 in dataset). The following findings are of interest from the WRAP reports:

The English Unitary Authority dataset

  • Overall predictors explained 81 percent of variation with 16 percent contextual and 65 percent local authority controlled.
  • Only one predictor, effective weekly residual containment (reduction in residual waste capacity), had a significant impact on recycling rates.
  • Each extra litre of weekly residual capacity was associated with a reduction in mean recycling rate of 0.05+/- 0.02 percentage points.
  • Extracting dry recycling from the residual stream is associated with higher recycling rates.
  • Authorities with a greater rural area were associated with higher recycling rates

 The UK unitary authority dataset

  • Overall predictors explained 68 percent of variation with 29 percent contextual and 39 percent local authority controlled.
  • Two predictors had a significant effect on recycling:
    1. Separate food collections and mixed food and garden collections have large positive impacts on recycling compared to no collection of these materials.
    2. Each extra litre of weekly residual capacity was associated with a reduction in mean recycling rate of 0.04+/- 0.02 percentage points.
  • The garden waste predictor was not identified as significant nor was the dry scheme type or the collection of plastic tubs and trays or textiles.

All datasets

There were a number of local authority controlled predictors that were similar across all datasets:

  • The higher the weekly residual waste capacity, the lower the recycling rate
  • Food waste collections are associated with higher recycling rates
  • The type of dry recycling service does not have a significant effect on the level of recycling


In summary the benchmarking and research provide evidence to support the reduction in residual waste capacity and increase recycling as a way to improve the performance of the waste service provided to residents.


Relevance to the strategy

The findings of the benchmarking support the strategy to increase recycling whilst reducing the size of the black bin.