With further lockdown restrictions in sight, councils in areas already facing tighter restrictions have set out how waste services have coped this “second time around”.
Local authorities in England including the North East, Merseyside and some parts of Wales have all faced stricter measures following a rise in coronavirus cases, and further restrictions could be introduced later today, 12 October.
A North East council representative told letsrecycle.com that local authorities will continue to “prioritise” waste and recycling services in any future lockdowns, and added that cooperaiton between councils in the area has been key to keeping services running.
Vicki Burrell, waste strategy team manager at Durham county council, and LARAC executive member, said North East councils have been “robust” in how they’ve managed recycling services.
Ms Burrell said: “We have prioritised waste and recycling services and local authorities have very much been adapting. They’ve continued to operate like that since the beginning. Regardless of a North East lockdown, councils are continuing to operate how we have always operated since March.
“In the North East, all local authorities engage with each other, we work well across the waste sector with our contractors, private waste management companies and the wider waste sector. I think this good partnership is one of our strengths”.
Ms Burrell added that measures adopted since the national lockdown have included prioritising recycling services, putting contingency plans in place, and implementing household waste and recycling centre (HWRCs) booking systems when they reopened.
Cllr John-Paul Stephenson, cabinet member for environment and regulatory services at Newcastle city council agreed that despite fresh local restrictions, disruption to waste services is not anticipated.
Mr Stephenson said: “Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic we have continued to provide a full bin collection service; have welcomed tens of thousands of residents to our recycling centres in a safe and socially distanced way; and have worked hard to keep our streets and spaces the clean, green, brilliant places we all want them to be.
“Obviously new local restrictions are being introduced to try and stem a renewed surge in cases of the virus, however – as was the case during months of national lockdown – we do not anticipate this will have any effect on the level of service our residents will receive.”
The Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority (MRWA) told letsrecycle.com that since local lockdown restrictions came into force across large parts of Merseyside on 22 September, its focus has remained on HWRCs, so that pressure is taken off other waste services.
A spokesperson for the authority said that the message “remains the same” to the public since HWRCs reopened.
“If waste can be disposed or recycled through kerbside collections, or if items can reused or repurposed, then please do so,” the spokesperson explained.
They added: “Social distancing is still being enforced in England which means there are restrictions on all our sites for the safety and the health of both staff and visitors, hence there are only a certain number of cars allowed on site at any one time. We would ask all householders to please follow site staff instructions if they do choose to visit any Recycling Centre.”
Cardiff city council has confirmed that since local lockdown restrictions were implemented there, it will be suspending green garden waste collections “to ensure general waste and recycling collections can continue to take place”.
The council confirmed that following the local lockdown, once-a-month, garden waste collections, which normally take place in November, December, January and February will be halted.
“The recent rise in infection rates across the city is concerning, it’s already beginning to impact our workforce”
In April, Cardiff confirmed that it was “temporarily” sending recylable materials collected at the kerbside for energy recovery as a result of the pandemic (see letsrecycle.com story).
Cllr Michael Michael, cabinet member for clean streets, environment and recycling, said the council is taking measures to reduce garden waste collections to allow it to focus on other things.
“We need to be confident we can continue to remove general waste, recycling and food waste from our streets and the recent rise in infection rates across the city is concerning. It’s already beginning to impact our workforce,” he said.
Cllr Michael added: “Right now we need our resources targeted at waste streams nobody wants to see on the streets. Halting garden waste collections at a time of year when garden waste is naturally, considerably, lower, is our best chance of making sure we can keep our streets clean while we battle the pandemic. This move will give our frontline staff some resilience. I realise this may be challenging for some residents, but I hope they understand the reasons why we have to do this now.”
Blaenau Gwent county borough council, which serves a community with one of the highest infection rates in the UK, said that its focus will be on continuing waste and recycling services.
The council said it has made sure it has had additional staff needed by “hiring temporary resources or redeploying staff from non-essential areas” to cover sickness and self-isolation requirements.
The council’s executive member for community services, Cllr Joanna Wilkins said: “The Covid pandemic has had a major impact on how we deliver some services and we have had to stop some non-essential services. However, I am really pleased that our waste and recycling crews have risen to the challenges of delivering an absolutely essential service for our residents as they continue to do a great job picking the increased amount of waste and recycling as more people work from home and spend longer in their homes.”