18 March 2020 by Joshua Doherty

Contamination warning as waste plans ramp up

London Councils — the local government association for Greater London — has warned that avoiding contamination in recycling is now “more important than ever” as it enables operatives to do their job safely and limit the spread of coronavirus. 

Current advice is to double bag any potentially infectious waste and wait 72 hours before putting it out

The message from the body comes as councils have also begun drawing up waste contingency measures to counter the outbreak, which could see some services reduced. 

In a statement this morning, London Councils said boroughs are committed to supporting Londoners during the pandemic, including in waste and recycling collections.  

spokesperson from the organisation said: “Avoiding contamination of recycling with other substances is now more important than ever, as it will enable our waste operatives to do their jobs safely, as well as making it possible for your recycling to eventually be re-used elsewhere.” 

Government support 

The message came after a string of emergency measures from the chancellor last night (17 March) looking to help businesses through the economic impacts of the virus.  

This included measures to relieve companies of business rates and offer short-term loans.  

Speaking with letsrecycle.com this morning, Lee Marshall, chief executive of LARAC, said that while this could impact council funding it is far too early to tell. 

“Local authorities are planning for scenarios and contingency measures “

Lee Marshall, chief executive, LARAC

“While there could be a reduction in income for local authorities from business rates, we don’t know what council costs will be either, so at this stage the financial implications of any measures are not known.” 

On waste services, he said: At the moment there has been little impact but that is likely to change. Local authorities are planning for scenarios and contingency measures which could lead to services such as garden waste collection ceasing temporarily, and the frequency of residual waste collections reducing.  

We could also see household waste and Recycling Centres close or heavily reduce their opening hours if staff are forced to self-isolate“.  

Government advice so far has been to double bag any potentially infectious waste and leave it for 72 hours. This includes used tissues and cleaning cloths. All other waste should be put out as normal.  


Earlier this week, the Local Government Secretary, Robert Jenrick, addressed over 300 council leaders and sector bodies in a call on the government’s response to coronavirus. 

He reiterated that the government “stands ready to do whatever is necessary” to support councils in their response to coronavirus.  

While waste wasn’t specifically mentioned, he said: “As part of the national effort to keep the public safe and deliver essential public services, this government stands with local councils at this difficult time. My absolute priority is to ensure they are well placed to respond to coronavirus and protect vital services.” 

Public Health England advice

Advice on waste from non medical settings in the coronavirus crisis can be found at: Public Health England


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