How street cleaning in Windsor and Maidenhead takes Urbaser from royal weddings to fly-tips

Written by: Jo Gallacher | Published:
The team of 40 people worked around the clock to make sure the borough was shining for the royal wedding

All boroughs face different requirements and obstacles in their street cleaning services – whether that’s location, foot traffic or business needs.

But given the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead is home to a royal residence, waste management contractor Urbaser is often faced with a unique set of challenges.

The past year has witnessed two royal weddings at Windsor Castle, which sits in the borough, that of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank.

As well as achieving the royal seal of approval, Urbaser also had to accommodate for an influx of over 110,000 visitors as the world’s media and royalists crowded into the town.

A similar schedule was set for both weddings, with work starting five weeks before the big day. Every pavement in Windsor town centre was jet-washed, including the main route towards the castle.

During the final week, the Urbaser team cleaned the route on a daily basis and crews walked miles to ensure the paths were weed- and litter-free.

During the weekend of Harry and Meghan’s wedding back in May 2018, 12 road sweepers and caged tippers were used during the operation, collecting an estimated 40 tonnes of waste over the three days.

The team of 40 people worked around the clock to make sure the borough was shining for the royal couple.

Graham Tidy, Urbaser service delivery manager, says: “The weddings were very large and demanding for everyone involved.

Security was very high and everything was checked from top to bottom using screens and we were given allocated slots by the police to go in overnight or first thing in the morning to remove all trade waste following the road closures.

“We had regular meetings with the police, fire brigade and the royal household three months in advance of the wedding, and the next day you wouldn’t have noticed there was a wedding.”

The planning set out the blueprints for Princess Eugenie’s wedding in October, which ultimately led to the borough ranking second best nationally for the cleanliness of its roads and third for its pavement cleanliness by the National Highways and Transport Network.

Tidy adds: “The weddings really brought the team together and they took that good spirit onto the streets every day – there’s a real connection now.”

Urbaser has been carrying out street cleansing services in the borough since April 2017, when it was selected by VolkerHighways as a subcontractor to deliver its Highway Management and Maintenance contract.

Remarkably, the company has experienced minimal changes to its collection service over the past few years, an unusual accolade given government funding for councils in England has almost halved between 2010/11 and 2017/18.

The new contract led to an influx of new equipment, meaning Urbaser could stay out on the streets and roads a lot longer. This is helped along by a positive attitude to waste from the borough’s councillors, according to Tidy.

He says: “The councillors are very hands-on here, you will often see them out campaigning or doing litterpicks. They are on a first-name basis with our staff and have a really good rapport – that helps to keep things moving. Because Windsor relies on tourism, the councillors are very keen to keep their borough clean.”

Yet the borough’s polished reputation has slightly been tarnished by an increase in fly-tipping – a growing trend up and down the country.

Tidy puts this down to the stricter rules on the nearby household waste recycling centre (HWRC), which restricts who can use the centre dependent on their postcode. Those living on the border do not qualify, meaning there has been more instances of the waste instead being fly-tipped.

This is now being tackled through councils advertising their special collection services, and designing collection routes in fly-tipping hotspots, changes which are now beginning to see progress.

Windsor and Maidenhead is undoubtedly a positive case study of how boroughs can adapt to the great challenges placed on them, but the council and Urbaser are adamant that in order to keep its streets clean, progress needs to continue.

Urbaser is now trialling four big belly bins which will take in more waste and reduce the number of times they need to be emptied. This means staff will have more time to spend on street cleaning, making the borough a more welcoming place for all.

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