Passive compliance is an idea that we have been batting around the office for quite a long time. It’s this concept that when dealing with rubbish or waste that the normal, standard option should be the right one. That if we need to get rid of an item; either by recycling it or by throwing it away, then the easy choice for us, as waste producers, should be the most compliant.
When talking about passive compliance, and its relevance, the current situation needs to be looked at. Now when you are looking to get rid of some rubbish we need to complete some steps. We’ve written about these in how to do rubbish removal the right way, but the basics are:
These are all things we must do to follow our duty of care. If you don’t follow them, and something goes wrong, like the waste gets fly-tipped or ends up at an illegal waste site. Then we, as the waste producer, are responsible. Here at Dsposal we call this - Active Compliance. When we get rid of waste we must do work to follow the rules.
To some extent this makes perfect sense and fits with the regulation around Duty of Care. However, this isn’t the default option when we, as citizens, get rid of our rubbish. We have been instructed for decades to leave waste out for the bin men. Quite literately we have been told to throw it away and at no point during that process were we expected to engage with it. Even before the councils’ collected waste the refuse was left for rag-and-bone men like the affable Steptoe and Son who would be out collecting junk every day.
This creates an interesting situation and breeds confusion. As a waste producer, we are responsible for our waste. However, if the situation is x then we follow the default option and passively comply because of our householder status, if y then we are directed to follow the laws and meet our duty of care. If we fail in our duties, then non-compliance penalties will be introduced and enforced.
Let’s revisit those 4 steps from before and adapt them slightly to fit a general scenario for any service:
Most of these steps are like any other interaction with a service provider as a member of the public. By law all gas engineers must be on the Gas Safe Register. Taxi drivers must be licensed. However, there isn’t a branch in these processes. If a gas engineer does work on a boiler they must provide paperwork, taxi drivers display a licence and they have livery on the car that says that they are licensed/permitted. Waste though has this branching condition. If the scenario is this, then do that; otherwise do that. This creates this ‘if this then that’ between active participation and passive involvement.
These branching cases require instruction to navigate and there is complexity baked into the system. The further down the branches we head the more questions are asked; more ifs, more branches and critically more activity. To create the situation where we the waste producer are not in breach of the laws requires effort, engagement and education.
There is effort to become compliant. That is what we are calling active compliance. And, like I mentioned earlier, it makes sense. It’s our waste, we should know what it is, we should know who is taking it away and we should know what happens to it. And we do care about this. Waste hasn’t left the news since Blue Planet 2 first aired in late 2017. We do care, until we deal with it. Until we have to put effort into dealing with it. Then we revert to the expected norm; the option that relies on a rag-and-bone man.
This expected norm, the default position needs to be altered. And this is where passive compliance needs to operate. Dsposal’s aim is to maximise the utility of waste via easy to use ubiquitous tech, making the relevant data accessible and useful to all waste producers everywhere to drive behaviour change and create value. And those ever branching if statements are the bread and butter for tech. The framework to digitise the process already exists. In some respects that is the easy part.
The hard part is developing and building an environment-promoting societal context where duty of care and compliant behaviour is the norm and a holistic approach is taken to ensure this is promoted by everybody that interacts with waste. The complexity is how to marry the current situation of using kerbside collection or HWRCs passively and using other organisations actively.
At Dsposal we have been building our technology, ideas and learning based upon 4 pillars:
Know - gather all the data and information to provide knowledge and insights on the industry
Interact – allow everybody to interact with the information collated and at the point of decision-making, address sustainable consequences of choice to highlight these consequences
Transact – facilitate transactions through the waste pathways
Reward - reward behaviours that keep resources in its highest value states and create social and institutional environments to encourage reuse of these resources
We released these concepts for the GovTech Catalyst Smart Waste Tracking competition in March 2019. But how to promote the situation where duty of care is the norm and passively achieved?
The first step towards holistic passive compliance is openness of the data and information that already exists and mapping local authority activities to the duty of care framework. Let’s reframe the 4 basic steps for duty of care for local authorities:
Provide the name and address of the contractor that is collecting the bin waste from homes and operating the household waste recycling centres.
Make the licenses and permits available and assist the public in understanding these documents.
Release the data and information regarding the waste pathway to the public. Withhold nothing regarding its final disposal/recovery location and help with the interpretation of the data.
This one’s a little impracticable for Local Authorities as collections are on rounds. But three out four isn’t bad.
There is variety and diversity in household waste collections. Decades of decisions made it that way, but what we need is consistency not uniformity. Consistency in expectation. The norm of throwing waste away needs to alter. The new norm needs to understand who is picking up waste, where it goes and confirmation that it got there. But this needs to happen passively.
What do you think? Why not contact us and let us know your thoughts.
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