Local authorities are being encouraged to keep HWRCs open if social distancing guidelines can be adhered to on site, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said today.
The advice has come from Defra’s media team in response to national media reports of fly-tipping allegedly linked to the closure of household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Today’s advice comes after guidance to councils and waste companies was published by Defra on 7 April. This referred to HWRCs but, unlike today’s Defra comments, did not seem to be directly encouraging councils to open sites. The Defra guidance last week said: “If it is possible to keep HWRCs open, make sure that social distancing rules can be maintained. Always provide adequate staffing levels for health and safety and security purposes.”
Councils were warned in last week’s guidance that some users of HWRCs may not have the capacity to store waste at home indefinitely. And an oblique reference was made to whether HWRCs were essential. Defra said last week “Consider whether priority sites can be maintained with restricted access. Provide communications that make it clear that residents should not leave home except for essentials and ensure social distancing is maintained on sites.”
“Through the guidance, we are also encouraging councils to keep their HWRCs open to ensure that bulky waste can continue to be disposed of”
In contrast, today (14 April) the Defra view on the need to open sites appears to be much stronger. Today’s media advice from Defra references the guidance and says that the message in the guidance was one of keeping the sites open.
Defra media advice said today: “Through the guidance, we are also encouraging councils to keep their HWRCs open to ensure that bulky waste can continue to be disposed of, but only if social distancing guidelines can be adhered to on site.”
And, the Department says that journeys to HWRCs can be ‘essential’. It states: “If a local HWRC is open, then as per the laws and guidance currently in place, members of the public should only take their waste to a HWRC if the journey is ‘essential’, i.e. because the build-up of waste in the home may pose a risk of injury or to health.”
Today’s Defra comments on HWRCs and flytipping can be seen HERE.
It is estimated that at present in England more than 90% of HWRCs are closed with the remainder suffering severe disruption.