Researchers at Cranfield University have developed a framework to help practitioners decide what is the appropriate mode and level of public engagement in decisions around waste management. Delivery of waste management contracts is often one of the most controversial elements of local authority decision-making, as demonstrated by this year’s ‘bin strike’ in Birmingham.

The study, published in the journal ‘Waste Management’, highlights the need for local authorities to engage more fully with the public to create a stronger foundation for decisions. As part of the study, researchers have produced a framework enabling local authority officials to tailor the scale of public engagement dependent on the type of technology and the level of controversy it may generate.

Dr Kenisha Garnett, a lecturer at Cranfield University and lead author of the study said: “Waste management can be one of the most controversial issues that local authorities face. The framework we have developed will allow waste management authorities to make an informed judgement on the type and scale of public involvement in order to balance ‘more’ and ‘better’ forms of engagement, according to how it is valued in different waste management decision contexts”.

“Technology, such as energy from waste incineration, remains controversial in the eyes of the public, so for councils and waste management authorities, it is important to create the right climate for meaningful public engagement. This requires developing a more inclusive process that exposes public dissent and disagreement and clears up misunderstandings in order to generate more agreeable outcomes that people perceive as fair and equitable”.

“Our research demonstrates the benefit of early involvement with the public, allowing an environment of trust to be created where the solution to the waste problem can be negotiated rather than be perceived as ‘imposed’.”

The paper ‘A conceptual framework for negotiating public involvement in municipal waste management decision-making in the UK’ is published in Volume 66 of Waste Management. Since its publication, the paper has been featured by Bang the Table, a specialist provider of digital public engagement solutions to government, public sector and private enterprises.

About Cranfield University

Cranfield is a specialist postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.