Large increase in severe disruption to commercial waste collections, says survey

16 per cent of councils are experiencing severe disruption to their commercial waste collection services, according to the latest survey carried out by the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT), though other services are continuing their return to normal.

The survey, which polls English local authorities (LAs) on the impact of Covid-19 on their waste services during the pandemic, recorded a 16 per cent increase in major disruption to commercial waste services in the week commencing 6 July.

Large increase in severe disruption to commercial waste collections, says surveyThis figure follows no responses detailing major disruption in the survey released in the week commencing 22 June. ADEPT attributes the rise to the relaxing of lockdown rules and an increase in service demand.

However, other services are continuing their been steady recovery, and figures for many waste services, including residual waste, recycling and garden waste, have recently remained largely unchanged, with 94 per cent, 80 per cent and 85 per cent of councils responding that operations are operating as normal for these services respectively.

Food waste collections are still experiencing some minor disruption, however, with 24 per cent of LAs reporting minor disruptions, doubling from 12 per cent in the previous survey.

In terms of disposal services, all councils are now operating landfill, mechanical biological treatment (MBT) and open windrow composting (OWC) facilities as usual. However, materials recycling facilities (MRFs) continue to experience some disruption, with 15 per cent of LAs reporting minor to moderate disruption, while HWRCs continue to experience minor disruption, though the number of HWRCs experiencing minor to moderate disruption has fallen from to 67 per cent from 75 per cent. 

Staff absences, which were particularly high towards the start of the lockdown period at over 20 per cent, largely due to illness and self-isolation, have also been on a downward trend. The latest survey reveals that 68 per cent of LAs reported a less than 20 per cent reduction in staffing levels, while 31 per cent reported no impact on operational staffing levels.

While the impacts of social distancing remain the main contributor to disruption in disposal services at 30 per cent, this continues to fall, down from 38 per cent in the last survey. In terms of collections services disruption, absence due to self-isolation is now reported as the biggest reason for disruption, with 29 per cent of LAs reporting this as the main contributor, overtaking social distancing on 27 per cent.

With the onset of the Covid-19 crisis in the UK in late March, LAs reported major disruption to waste services, with Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) particularly affected.

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 is monitoring the continuing impacts of Covid-19 on waste services across England.

Ian Fielding, Chair of ADEPT’s Waste Group, said: “The survey highlights how waste services are returning to normal or a stable level of operation. The rise in tonnage and impacts on the collections of commercial waste services is to be expected as people spend more time at home but it will be interesting to see how things change as the lockdown is relaxed and there is a lift across wider sectors of the economy.”

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