Residual waste services to households are being disrupted during the coronavirus pandemic in 17% of local authorities, according to the results of a survey released on 3 April 2020.
However, local authority associations who carried out the survey observed that the findings are “mainly positive”, in the face of a 20% reduction in workforce because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. Garden and food waste, bulky waste and are being hit hardest according to the survey results, which were published 11 days into the government’s three week ‘stay at home’ period.
More than a quarter of councils said their recycling services were being disrupted although mainly in a ‘minor’ way.
Waste disposal authorities reported that of their materials recycling facilities (MRFs), 43% are operating normally, a further 12% are experiencing minor or moderate disruption, and 46% report that they have withdrawn this treatment. (The survey notes that the MRF figure ‘should be used cautiously’ due to differences in interpretation).
The survey, which had responses from more than 200 local authorities, is the first of an ongoing weekly assessment. It shows that the worst hit service sector is garden/green waste with 59% of services disrupted, including more than a third of councils stopping the service altogether.
Findings also included that: Household waste recycling centres/civic amenity sites are highly disrupted with most closed; energy from waste services are almost operating normally; and 14% of transfer station services are disrupted.
Reasons for service disruption are given in the ADEPT survey with staff absence due to self-isolation the largest, at 117 collection authorities and 53 disposal authorities. The second highest reason is staff sickness which is hitting 116 councils, although it is not stated whether this is coronavirus-linked.
Food waste: services are suffering with nearly 10% of collection authorities withdrawing the service and 27% reporting disruption.
Bulky waste: two thirds (65%) of Waste Collection Authorities (WCAs) have already suspended their bulky waste collection service, in some cases this means meeting pre-existing requests but not taking new ones. 17% are experiencing some level of disruption. Only 19% continue to provide the service normally.
Clinical waste: collections are also operating normally in most places. 88% of WCAs providing this service reported that it is operating normally, and the other 12% reported only minor or moderate disruption. None are reporting major disruption or service suspension.
The survey is coordinated by ADEPT – the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport. It is supported by the recycling officers organisation, LARAC; the National Association of Waste Disposal Officers (NAWDO); and the Local Government Association.
“All but a few councils are still managing providing collection services for domestic residual waste as normal.”
In a statement, the associations said: “Despite running at an average of over 20% down on staff numbers, all but a few councils are still managing providing collection services for domestic residual waste as normal, and over 90% of responding councils are maintaining their recycling services as normal or with only minor disruption. Encouragingly, no councils report any significant disruption to waste disposal and treatment services such as energy from waste incineration and landfill.”
The statement continued: “However, in order to maintain these levels of service, about a third of councils have temporarily suspended collections of garden waste, and about two thirds have suspended bulky waste collections. Almost all council have closed household waste recycling centres in order to protect staff and customers and to help enforce social distancing.”
Speaking on behalf of the organisations, Ian Fielding, chair of ADEPT’s Waste Group said: “I would like to thank all those who took time to respond and ask them to keep providing us with weekly updates. Their input is invaluable in enabling us to keep up with the rapidly changing developments across the country.
“So far, the picture is good. Although there has been some disruption, it seems to be business as usual for most councils on core services like residual waste and recycling collections.”
Mr Fielding praised the contribution of workers on local authority recycling, waste, street cleaning and litter services.
He added: “I’d like to pay tribute to our frontline workers who are providing an essential service. It is because of them and our officers that we are continuing to provide collections for our communities.”
SURVEY RESULTS – ADEPT
The full survey results can be seen at: www.adeptnet.org.uk