Lock-down increased the use of open spaces and green spaces as the demand for fresh air and getting outdoors was desired, directly effecting The Royal Parks. During these dynamic and uncertain times, the Royal Parks have seen new waste management challenges. We saw an increase in use of disposables and new items entering park’s waste streams such as rubber gloves and disposable masks.
This waste challenge created an opportunity for our sustainability and park team to trial mixed recycling bins in some of our parks. By adding additional bins, we had the goal of streamlining our waste management and to keep our parks clean. In Regents Park we typically take 830T of waste a year however it appears that this number will increase for 2020. The trials to test the use of mixed recycling bins by the public have shown high levels of contamination, which makes the future introduction of mixed recycling bins challenging. One option to reduce contamination levels may be the installation of bins with small apertures that prevent disposal of while bags of waste or material that have not been segregated. Communication and signage did not make a difference at this time which could be due to the volume of park users.
However, we have seen a positive impact in Greenwich Park where waste separation seems to be controlled and used correctly alongside the number of park users increasing. We find this interesting that the same trial in two Royal Parks have extremely different results.
Finally, during lockdown takeaway food was still available but dine-in was not, causing a large increase in park use for picnics and takeaway meals. A positive from this new challenge is that we potentially increased our diversity of park users. These takeaway meals brought and increase in disposable items to our waste stream such as serve ware and cutlery.
Looking into the future, The Royal Parks will continue to trial waste separation however will need to focus on communication with park users and ease of using the bins correctly.
The Royal Parks are an Associate Member of AGF.