A thought dump: some thoughts on how councils can eliminate pain points in household recycling services.

Callum Laird
3 min readFeb 28, 2021
Image by Kenny Luo / www.kennyluo.com / Unsplash

Today, I loaded the entire boot of my estate car with rubbish to dispose of at the dump. I arrived at Riverside Recycling Centre and joined the queue, with around 20 cars in front of me. I waited for an hour only to be turned away by a very remorseful employee saying the skips were full. I’m not here to complain or vent, I’m not that kind of person — I’m a problem solver that just wants to help.

As I was leaving I passed at least 20 (maybe even more) cars that were queuing behind me, who were clearly confused at what was going on as we all turned around and left.

Why did I write this?

Well, after speaking to a few friends, and, from my own personal experience, queuing for around an hour to unload your waste at the dump is common in Dundee. It’s a problem that I’ve experienced for quite a while and I am sitting in my car wondering to myself why nothing has been done to remediate the situation.

Look at the reviews on Google, I am definitely not the only user that has experienced this!

Here’s some of my thoughts I had whilst sitting in the queue on how you could improve the experience of using this council service.

  1. Quick win: Introduce a booking system. Let users book a slot to visit the dump. Research the average amount and type of waste that users dispose of during a visit and then you will be able to roughly calculate capacity and you would not have to turn so many users away. You can also use this to gauge how many times you would have to have the skips emptied per day. This would be very easy (and I imagine cheap) to implement and would lead to much happier users.
  2. Quick win: text message/email alerts when skips are full so users know not to leave their homes and can plan around this.
  3. Better user experience, longer implementation: Use ANPR cameras and sensors to calculate the number of vehicles queuing and the remaining capacity of skips and display this within an online dashboard on the council’s website, this would let users plan their journey in advance.
  4. Wildcard: currently the dump is open at 9am-4pm. This is no good for me during the week as I finish work at 5:30. Is it worth considering on, say, Tuesdays and Thursdays, to have later opening hours. For example, 12am-8pm which would allow a bigger pool of users to access your service. This would reduce strain on a Saturday and Sunday as users like me would be able to visit during the week instead.
Idea prioritisation matrix of myideas.

Why is this important?

Users could be discouraged from using the recycling services if this is an experience they are subjected to frequently. Users are less likely to go out of their way to recycle if they have a repeatedly poor experience of using this council service.

The attendant who was telling us that the dump was full and to head home was wearing a body-worn camera, the type that the police wear. This made me think that they had had potentially experienced abuse in their role in the past. If users are disgruntled and annoyed at the service and staff are facing backlash (through no fault of their own), does this not suggest something should be done about it?



Callum Laird

He/him/his • Designer, cat dad, Volvo driver, coffee consumer and tech enthusiast. Dreaming of making the world a better place through design.