In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, Neil Grundon, deputy chairman of Grundon Waste Management, says service provision is the immediate priority, but it’s also important to look to the future.
OPINION: If there is any comfort to be had in being in the waste and recycling businesses during this time, it is that we will BE in business once it is over, unlike many businesses enduring the worst white-knuckle ride of their lives.
Even the failure of a business is nothing compared to those families who have lost loved ones during this awful illness, and however bad things get, we must always remember how lucky we are just to be well.
Our business, like many, has had to make tough decisions fast. It is probably the speed with which we are working which causes the most anxiety, there is not a great deal of time to mull over decisions which may have a longer-term impact further down the road.
Our main focus this week has been to prioritise our customers in the NHS and food supply chain.
We have been providing clinical and domestic waste services to hospitals in London and the Home Counties for over 30 years. It is a pretty undervalued and unglamorous part of our offering, mainly because (for obvious reasons) it does not involve vast amounts of recycling (although we do recycle from non-infectious parts of the hospitals), and it does not receive much press.
We have a fantastic team providing this service and they are as much on the ‘front line’ as anyone working in that environment at this time. I cannot thank them enough for the work they are doing.
That is not to say the rest of the business is in full hibernation. We are barely a week into the new ‘lockdown’ world, and usually at this time, we’re talking of spring-cleaning our homes and businesses, full of enthusiasm and joie de vivre for the summer months ahead.
If that spring-clean happens – and I’m sure it will, because people will soon grow bored of the novelty of being cooped up with nothing to do for days on end and home-schooling can only entertain the kids so much – then it’s going to get even more challenging.
“We have capacity on both our vehicles and our transfer stations, and we are readying ourselves for those calls next week.”
Council-run recycling centres are largely closing, so people have nowhere to take their excess ‘stuff’ – even if they were allowed out. As a result, we expect the squeeze on household collections to begin very soon as the commercial tonnage we usually manage switches to residential waste.
I foresee local authorities quickly becoming overwhelmed, a situation which will undoubtedly be harder to handle as their own waste teams potentially reduce in numbers due to self-isolation rules.
We have capacity on both our vehicles and our transfer stations, and we are readying ourselves for those calls next week.
It is vital however, that local authorities draw up their plans as a matter of urgency, so that we can make the biggest difference and the best impact where we are needed most.
And if there was ever a time to put an end to the argument about the need for more Energy from Waste plants, it is now. Waste collection and electrical power – please would ANYONE tell me what else they really need, bar their health, their food and water?