9 March 2021 by James Langley

Staff absences hit local authority collections

Collection services continue to be affected by staff absences, according to the latest survey results from the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT).

Covering the week beginning 1 March, the results show 44% of responding local authorities reporting absences due to self-isolation, while 31% reported absences due to sickness.

Forty-four per cent of local authorities reported absences due to self-isolation in the week commencing 1 March

Absences due to self-isolation have fallen since the previous survey, which covered the week commencing 15 February (see letsrecycle.com story), but absences due to overall sickness have increased from 28% since then.

Social distancing measures are also reducing collection teams’ capacity, with 38% of responding councils identifying this as a reason for disruption. This represents the second largest cause for disruption to collection services, up from 24% in the previous survey.

Steve Palfrey, chair of ADEPT’s waste group, said: “Waste services continue to experience levels of disruption, mostly due to the impacts of staff absence, whether through sickness or self-isolation.”

ADEPT conducts its surveys on a fortnightly basis. The sample size varies for each survey. The most recent survey results were published today (9 March).

Staff absence levels reported by local authorities for the week commencing 1 March (picture: ADEPT)

Waste arisings

Meanwhile, councils have also reported consistently higher residual waste, recycling, food and now garden waste tonnages than prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Palfrey added: “The fact that the volume of domestic waste and recycling has increased significantly almost certainly reflects the shift in workplace pattern, with many more people consistently working from home over the past year.

“The fact that the volume of domestic waste and recycling has increased significantly almost certainly reflects the shift in workplace pattern”

Steve Palfrey, ADEPT

“This is borne out by a corresponding reduction in commercial waste, reflecting the impacts of lockdowns and social distancing requirements on business premises.”

Most (95%) authorities who responded to ADEPT’s survey in the week commencing 1 March reported recycling waste tonnages to be greater than usual.

Just 6% of authorities reported food waste tonnages to be ‘about the same’ as was typical, with greater than usual levels of food waste tonnages reported by 78%.

Greater than usual levels of garden waste tonnages are reported by 52% of responding authorities.

However, 67% of responding authorities highlighted a less-than-usual level of collected commercial waste tonnages in the week beginning 1 March, down from 77% in the week beginning 15 February.

Waste arisings reported by local authorities in the week commencing 1 March (picture: ADEPT)

Collection

Nearly four fifths (79%) of waste collection authorities which provide residual waste collections and responded to ADEPT’s survey in the week commencing 1 March reported them to be operating as normal. This is a slight increase from the 76% reported in the previous survey.

Just more than three quarters (77%) of responding authorities reported their recycling collections were operating as normal in the week commencing 1 March, up from 69% in the previous survey. All recycling services are currently reported to be available.

A total of 65% of the authorities who responded to ADEPT’s survey reported their food waste collections to be operating as normal. This is down from 72% in the week commencing 15 February.

Just under three quarters (74%) of garden waste collection services are reported to be operating as normal in the week commencing 1 March. This is a significant increase from 64% in the last survey. Moderate disruption has dropped from 12% to 0%, but 2% of services are still unavailable.

A table comparing the level of disruption to collection services to previous weeks, with green being a ‘normal’ service (picture: ADEPT)

Disposal

In the week commencing 1 March, all authorities reported their household waste recycling centre (HWRC) services to be available. Nevertheless, only 31% of responding authorities reported HWRCs to be operating normally, with 59% experiencing minor disruption. In the previous survey, 40% of services were reported to be operating normally, with 50% experiencing minor disruptions.

All landfilling and nearly all (96%) energy from waste (EfW) disposal services used by responding authorities are reported to be operating as normal. This compares to the 96% for landfilling and 98% for EfW reported in the previous survey.

Ninety-three per cent of responding authorities reported the material recycling facilities (MRF) services they used to be operating as normal in the week commencing 1 March. This is an increase from 90% in the previous survey.

A table comparing the level of disruption to disposal services to previous weeks, with green being a ‘normal’ service (picture: ADEPT)

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