8 January 2021 by James Langley

Increased festive waste and staffing issues hit collections

Several councils across the UK have reported collection issues in recent days, citing increased festive waste, the Covid-19 pandemic and adverse weather conditions as reasons for the delays.

Cardiff council estimates about 400 tonnes of extra recycling was left out for collection after Christmas compared to last year. Alongside the extra waste, the council says it has experienced a 17% reduction in the department’s staff due to workers either testing positive for Covid-19 or having to shield or self-isolate.

Cardiff council says there has been an extra 400 tonnes of recycling generated at Christmas compared with the same time last year (picture: Cardiff council)

“The amount of waste presented for collection over the Christmas period has increased substantially,” the council said in a statement published yesterday (6 January). “We believe the early lockdown and a big shift towards online shopping has contributed to the large amounts of recycling and packaging we are seeing.”

The council says it has re-deployed “suitable staff” from other parts of the council to help, though it is still trying to carry out collections safely. It has decided to prioritise collecting general waste and food waste.

During the first lockdown, household recycling in Cardiff was temporarily sent to Viridor’s Trident Park energy from waste (EfW) plant rather than being sorted and recycled. The local authority said it was dealing with a massive increase in waste as people stayed at home. Its recycling returned to normal in June 2020 (see letsrecycle.com story).


Copeland borough council in Cumbria says delays to its collections are possible with its team becoming “increasingly stretched”. It says its crews were involved in two collisions this week due to the “winter conditions” and it is now prioritising their safety.

“Because of Covid-19, the lockdown and some difficult weather conditions, our recycling and waste collection teams are becoming increasingly stretched”

Copeland borough council

“Because of Covid-19, the lockdown and some difficult weather conditions, our recycling and waste collection teams are becoming increasingly stretched,” the council said in a statement published yesterday (6 January). “We want to let you know that, if road conditions are not safe, we may not be able to return to pick up missed collections.”

The council says that if residents have a collection missed then its crews would take up to four additional bags of waste at their next collection.


Meanwhile, Calderdale council in West Yorkshire says that due to recent weather and difficult road conditions, as well as a significant increase in recycling following Christmas, some recycling collections have been delayed.

Calderdale council says a prolonged period of snow and ice has left some collections outstanding (picture: Calderdale council)

In a statement published on 5 January the council said: “The prolonged period of snow and ice over the past few days has made some roads impassable. Our crews worked across New Year’s Day and on Sunday to try and carry out as many collections as possible, but there are still many collections outstanding.

“Unfortunately, we won’t be able to return for any collections that were due prior to 1 January, but they will be carried over to your next scheduled collection day.”

Cheshire East

Cheshire East council says snow and icy roads have affected collections and crews are putting in additional rounds to catch up on the backlog. The council says larger collections of waste due to the Christmas and New Year period have added to the problem.

Cheshire East council deployed gritters to clear snow and ice from the road so collections could continue (picture: Cheshire East council)

Councillor Laura Crane, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for highways and waste, paid tribute to the work of collection crews. “While many of us were still relaxing at home over the Christmas and New Year break, our highways teams and household waste crews were working hard to maintain our customary high level of service and keep our roads safe,” she said on 5 January. “We are told this cold snap could continue and even get worse, so the message is to be prepared for deteriorating weather conditions and stay at home where possible.

“I also want to urge our residents to help protect our staff at this very difficult time by keeping all waste bins as clean as possible to minimise the risk of infection through handling.

“While our staff have protective gloves, we would like our residents to play their part by helping to minimise any risk of infection.”

Cheshire East says its highways service has drawn up contingency plans to deal with any staff shortages owing to the worsening pandemic. It says it is ensuring that all its staff work in a safe and socially distanced environment to minimise any risk of infection.

St Helens

St Helens council has also reported disruption to its in-house recycling collections, “very much” due to the weather in “four to five” areas of the borough. Household waste collections are said to be unaffected.

St Helens operates a kerbside sorting system, with residents separating out their materials into different containers (picture: St Helens borough council)

While the council says it has had had one or two staff self-isolating during the festive period it has had no incidents of staff shielding. The pandemic is said to have had no influence on the delays.

A council spokesperson told letsrecycle.com: “We aim to be caught up fully tomorrow, but teams are working the weekend too, so Saturday at the latest.”


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