Defra to explore further support for waste industry

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) is to “explore the potential for further support” for the waste and resources sector as it rolls out a Covid-19 impacts survey.

Defra launched the survey relating to the waste sector in England on Friday (24 April) and it will run until Wednesday 29 April 11.59pm, with the survey to be repeated in two weeks.

DefraDefra states that the survey will allow the government to maintain “a good understanding of the impact that the Covid-19 outbreak is having on the industry”, which will then “inform our policy decisions; aid our contingency planning across Defra and wider government; and help us to support you and the sector at large”.

The survey includes a specific section Finance, with Defra stating: “We are keen to understand any financial pressures on your business as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak, whether you have made use of existing government support schemes, and to explore the potential for further support.”

The 30-minute questionnaire also includes questions on staff numbers, absence rates, supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), volumes of material being processed and changes to capacity.

Waste sector disruption

The waste and resources sector, which has been declared an ‘essential industry’ by the government, has been greatly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

A local authority impact survey carried out by the Association of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT) has shown that English local authorities have experienced severe disruption to waste services, with Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) and garden waste collections particularly affected.

Staff absences due to illness and self isolation, along with social distancing measures have been identified as the main causes for service disruption – 27 per cent of local authorities are experiencing absence rates of more than 20 per cent of the workforce.

The Environment Agency (EA) has relaxed some of its regulations to provide some flexibility for the waste sector, such as relaxing rules on waste storage limits and allowing municipal incinerators to accept Covid-infected waste, while the government has announced that waste workers and their families will now be able to access Covid-19 testing if they display symptoms at drive-through test sites or through home testing kits.

You can access the Defra Covid-19 impacts survey on the Defra website.

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