The chief executive of the Recycling Association has called on Defra to ensure recycling collections from households are maintained during the coronavirus pandemic.
Dr Simon Ellin made his plea yesterday (26 March) in a letter addressed to David Read, the joint head of waste regulation and crime at Defra.
According to the Recycling Association, the letter was prompted by fears less material would be available to produce vital packaging needed to protect food and medical supplies if councils cut recycling collections.
Dr Ellin said: “I know there is great pressure on resources at the moment, but local authorities must maintain standards to ensure we receive decent quality material. They should also keep collecting material to be recycled.
“We know it is very difficult for councils at the moment, and I have utmost respect for those who are out and about everyday emptying our bins while trying to stay safe. These key workers are essential for enabling us to keep supplies flowing.
“We need to provide our supply chains with material”
“But we need to provide our supply chains with material.”
Retail cardboard, paper and plastics are usually of a higher standard than from domestic collections, meaning they are more efficiently recycled and can be turned back into new high-quality products more easily, according to Dr Ellin. He believes the closure of many shops will inhibit the supply of these materials.
Several councils have already announced the temporary suspension of recycling collections as they seek to prioritise the collection of general waste.
Chiltern district council, for example, announced it had made the “difficult decision” to suspend all recycling collections in Chiltern and Wycombe due to driver and loader shortages (see letsrecycle.com story). The Buckinghamshire-based council said it was working with its contractor, Serco, to secure extra staff so that any disruption was “as short as possible”.
On Wedesday (25 March), while emphasising that bins would continue to be collected throughout the coronavirus crisis, a cross-sector statement signed by private waste management companies and industry and local government bodies warned some non-essential services might be affected in coming weeks in the event of staff shortages (see letsrecycle.com story).
Dr Ellin also asked for several measures from Defra in light of the pandemic.
Among other things, he asked that the recycling industry is given business rate relief for additional storage it might have to hire during the period of the crisis.
And, he has asked that inspectors from the UK environment agencies are not required to remove themselves from work if they are not displaying any symptoms of coronavirus, saying a full-scale shutdown of the inspection regime would inhibit the ability of the Recycling Association’s members to send materials to manufacturers abroad.
Dr Ellin has also asked Defra to help keep the export markets open, and use the diplomatic channels of the Government to request other nations keep open their ports and logistical systems to ensure material can reach manufacturers.
He said: “I have asked Defra to keep export markets open as the essential goods we need don’t necessarily come from here in the UK.
“We therefore have to supply world markets so that they can send their goods back to us.
“Markets for recycled materials may become harder to access over the coming weeks and months, and there is a possibility we may need to store material, especially if quality standards drop and international markets look elsewhere.”