In recent weeks, high case numbers have led to some concerns that waste services could again be destabilised by staff absences, as was seen last year and into 2022. However, the picture in Scotland appears to show that the sector is coping and has built up resilience in service delivery.
Stephen Freeland, policy advisor at SESA, said: “I’m not picking up any concern or alarm bells on this.
“I’m aware that Scotland seems to have the highest infection rate in the UK just now, but have not heard anything to suggest that absence rates are significantly higher than they’ve been of late, or that this is impacting on services. I think the sector has become increasingly resilient over the last year or two and is coping as well as can be expected.”
Following the emergence of the Omicron variant, Covid cases soared during the Christmas period last year, with even higher numbers at the beginning of January.
Scotland and some areas of England, including Cambridgeshire, Somerset, and parts of East Sussex, are currently seeing particularly high rates.
However, even with higher number of cases, most councils say waste services are holding up.
A spokesperson for Glasgow city council agreed that “the impact is manageable” despite particularly high case numbers.
“We are still seeing Covid cases among our cleansing teams, but numbers appear to be relatively low and coming down,” the local authority told letsrecycle.com.
A spokesperson confirmed that Glasgow did face issues over the Christmas period, having suspended its food and garden waste kerbside collection service as well as bulky waste collections due to absences caused by Covid, general illness and annual leave.
“We are certainly not in that situation at the moment,” they added.
Some regions in England, including Somerset and South Cambridgeshire, have also recently seen rising cases.
A Somerset council spokesperson said the impact on services is ‘not significant’.
“However, we are keenly aware that this will be a challenge and strain for our contractor and will be monitoring it with them and supporting where we can,” they added.
There have been some issues reported for other authorities, such as South Cambridgeshire district council, which shares its waste service, Greater Cambridge Shared Waste, with Cambridge city council.
A Greater Cambridge Shared Waste spokesperson said: “We continue to face staffing issues due to the national shortage of HGV drivers and agency staff, plus COVID-related sickness.
“Our operations team and crew are doing their utmost to complete all bin collections as planned. However, we’re currently advising residents that we may not be able to complete all garden and food waste collections on their scheduled days, but we are endeavouring to return as soon as possible.”