Buckinghamshire Council is delighted to have won ‘Best New Idea’ at the LARAC Conference Celebration awards

Representation of a virtual tour on a tablet

In a virtual celebration on Wednesday 14 October, LARAC, the leading voice for local authorities on recycling, waste and resource management, recognised Buckinghamshire Council’s innovative approach to improving customer experience at local Household Recycling Centres through Virtual Tours and Google optimisation.

With 93% of online experiences starting with a search, Buckinghamshire Council decided to maximise its presence on the world’s biggest search engine and online maps. The award for ‘Best New Idea’ celebrates the work by Buckinghamshire Council and local award-winning, Buckingham-based company, 360 Visual Media, in providing bespoke virtual tours inside all nine local Household Recycling Centres (HRCs) and optimising their presence on Google.

The work has made it easier than ever for residents to come to the site ready to recycle and have a safe and smooth visit. It also allows those with access or anxiety issues to view the sites and plan their visit, hopefully encouraging more visits.

Sharon Lewis of 360 Visual Media, said:

“I’ve done lots of virtual tours of shops and restaurants, but I’d never been asked to capture virtual tours of recycling centres. But with so many visitors it’s a great way to make sure people have all the information they need before they visit. The work we have done together is easily copied by other councils across the country and it would be great to see lots more virtual tours of recycling centres.”

The bespoke virtual tours of each Buckinghamshire HRC were finished in May 2020. These tours added extra information and functionality to Google’s StreetView version, including overlaying site opening times, useful tips about the site (including accessibility, parking spaces, and popular user times) and positive messages to boost recycling. In addition to this, further features included:

  • Live messaging, enabling customers to contact Buckinghamshire Council’s Recycling and Waste teams directly to ask questions about the site.
  • Product listings, providing information on the chargeable waste service including a full price list, information about charges and how users can pay.

Buckinghamshire Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Change, Cllr Bill Chapple OBE, commented:

“It is great to be recognised for our innovative approach in improving customer experience at our local HRCs. Lots of hard work from both Buckinghamshire Council and 360 Visual Media has has enabled the 1.4 million annual visitors to our HRCs to stay safe, plan a visit around their own schedules and recycle as much as possible.

“The work done has been vital during the COVID-19 pandemic. With sites closed, then open with new procedures, it’s been great to be able to offer our residents a self-serving opportunity to get the latest information. We saw 60% more searches for our sites between May and July this year compared to the previous year, and all those searches had up to the minute information without another click.”

For more information on Buckinghamshire Council’s recycling and waste services, please visit: www.buckinghamshire.gov.uk/bin-collection-recycling-and-waste

Or to take a look at one of Buckinghamshire Council’s Virtual Tours of High Heaven Household Recycling Centre, visit: http://bit.ly/WycombeHRC_virtual_tour