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

21 April 2020

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

Alongside ADEPT, the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC), the Local Government Association (LGA) and the National Association of Waste Disposal Officers (NAWDO) are working together to monitor the continuing impacts of Covid-19 on waste services across England. Over 250 local authorities have so far responded to the surveys.

Analysis of this third survey shows that the core collections services – household waste and recycling - are continuing to be maintained. Of the councils completing this survey, 99% are continuing to collect residual waste normally or with only minor disruption, with 97% for recycling collections. Following on from the second survey, the trend for both staff absences and impact on services continues to show a small reduction.

No responding councils reported that they are continuing to operate household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) normally. Following government guidelines on essential journeys, 92% of household waste recycling centres are closed, with the remainder suffering high levels of disruption. The biggest impacts continue to be on collection services are for bulky and garden waste, where large numbers of authorities have stopped collecting so they can focus on core services. 

Since the last survey, there has been an improvement in the number of fly tipping clearance collections operating (up from 61% to 66%).

The impact of lockdown, with more people than usual staying at home, has led to a continued increase in the amount of waste and recyclables being collected from homes. There has been a significant decrease in the volume of commercial waste collected by local authorities as pubs and clubs as well as most shops and offices are closed.

Speaking on behalf of these key networks Ian Fielding, Chair of ADEPT’s Waste Group said: “It is encouraging to see that local authorities are maintaining core waste services with minimal disruption and that councils are able to put resources into tackling fly-tipping. We continue to monitor the situation closely, but it still remains the case that fly tipping is undertaken by criminals and unlicensed operators who do not use HWRCs.

“Before they closed in line with essential travel guidance, centres were under immense pressure, reporting increased congestion around sites, staff being abused and social distancing difficult to maintain. We want to avoid public confusion through the piecemeal opening of HWRCs across the country, so local authorities are planning for a controlled and consistent reopening of HWRCs, managed in line with the government exit strategy when it is published.”

Householders can ask to see someone’s permit or check whether they are authorised to collect waste on the Environment Agency website here: https://environment.data.gov.uk/public-register/view/search-waste-carriers-brokers.

The weekly waste impacts survey has been designed to take only a few minutes to complete. The results of all waste surveys are available on the ADEPT website: https://www.adeptnet.org.uk/covid-19-waste-survey-results.