Final ADEPT waste survey reports continued disruption

The final survey from The Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT) on the impacts of Covid-19 on local authority waste services in England shows services continuing to return to normal, though disruption continues.

ADEPT has been monitoring the continuing impacts of Covid-19 on waste services across England since March.

Recycling binCovering the week beginning 7 September, the latest survey shows that for most responding local authorities all core collection services are now operating at near normal.

Food waste collections in particular have seen a strong recovery, with 91 per cent of councils now reporting collections operating with no disruptions. This is a large increase from the 76 per cent of food waste operating normally at the last survey in August.

Disruption for residual and dry recycling collection services has increased slightly since the last survey, with 10 per cent and 22 per cent of responding authorities respectively reporting minor levels of disruption.

No authorities reported their garden waste or bulky waste collections to be unavailable, though 43 per cent of responding authorities reported that their commercial waste collections were experiencing minor disruption.

This is similar to 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.

On the disposal side, Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRC) in most areas continue to be significantly impacted by the effects of social distancing. Only 35 per cent of councils report their HWRCs to be operating normally, although all councils report services to be available.

HWRCs were particularly affected during the outbreak, with almost all closing at the peak of the virus outbreak and councils reported large increases in waste in the weeks that followed.

Most other disposal services are now operating as normal, with all landfill and nearly all Energy-from-Waste (EfW) services operating as normal, while 94 per cent of responding authorities reported Material Recycling Facilities (MRFs) to be operating as normal.

Staff absences have reduced markedly over the last month, with 63 per cent of councils reporting no impacts and the remainder reporting less than 20 per cent reduction.

The main reason for disruption to services remains social distancing, with a significant reduction since the last survey in the number of councils identifying illness or self-isolation impacting 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.

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 local authorities who have contributed to the survey over the last six 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.”

ADEPT 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.

The results of all waste impact surveys can be found on the ADEPT website.

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