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Local Authorities publish final report into impact of Covid-19 on waste services

16 September 2020

The Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT) has published the findings from its 16th and final waste impacts survey, designed in partnership with key local authority network groups.

Working alongside the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC), the Local Government Association (LGA) and the National Association of Waste Disposal Officers (NAWDO), ADEPT has been monitoring the continuing impacts of Covid-19 on waste services across England.

The group has decided that this will be the final survey, but will keep monitoring services and the potential effects that Covid-19 is having, and will pick up the survey again if needed.

Covering the week beginning 7th September, this survey shows that for most responding local authorities all core collection services are now operating at near normal with 91% of councils now reporting food waste collections back to pre-Covid levels and no disruption. Street sweeping services are now operating normally in 98% of responding local authorities.

For residual and recycling collection services, levels of disruption from Covid-19 related issues remains low with only 10% and 22% of responding authorities respectively reporting minor levels of disruption. 

Disposal services are operating with little, if any, disruption, but Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) in most areas continue to be significantly impacted by the effects of social distancing. Only 35% of councils report their HWRCs to be operating normally, although all councils report services to be available.

Staff absences have reduced markedly over the last month, with 63% of councils reporting no impacts and the remainder reporting less than 20% reduction. The main reason for disruption to services remains social distancing, with significant reductions since the last survey in the number of councils identifying sickness or self-isolation impacting on collection services.

Tonnages remain higher than normal for most waste types and especially for recycling, residual waste and food waste, with most councils reporting some level of increase in these waste types. The only waste type which is significantly lower than normal is commercial waste which is reported as being less than normal by 73% of councils. This is consistent with previous surveys and is an ongoing indicator of a general reduction in economic activity as people delay returning to offices, and shops, cafes and small businesses continue to struggle. 

Speaking on behalf of these key networks Ian Fielding, Chair of ADEPT’s Waste Group said: “With so many local authorities reporting a return to good or normal levels of service delivery, we have decided to put the survey on hold, but thank all those councils who have contributed to the survey over the last 6 months or so. The data we have collated has been invaluable in providing an almost real time insight into the effects that Covid-19 has had, not just on local authority waste services, but by extension how society and the behaviours of communities changed in response to the lockdown. Obviously, with the current levels of rising cases, we will continue to monitor the situation closely and may repeat the survey in future if necessary.”

The results of all waste surveys are available on the ADEPT website here.