Most collection services now operating as normal, says survey

The majority of local authority waste collection services are now operating as normal, according to the latest Covid-19 impacts survey carried out by the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT).

The survey polls English councils on the impact of Covid-19 on their waste services during the pandemic. The 14th and most recent survey, published on 20 July, records most LAs responding that all of their collection services are operating as normal, including 92 per cent of residual waste services and 82 per cent recycling services.

This follows the survey covering the week beginning 6 July, which reported a large increase in severe disruption to commercial waste collections. Though the latest survey shows continuing minor disruption to commercial, food, garden and bulky waste collections, these services are showing continual gradual improvement, with 73 per cent, 77 per cent, 90 per cent and 79 per cent respectively operating as normal

An image of wheelie bins along a streetWith the onset of the Covid-19 crisis in the UK in late March, councils reported significant disruption to Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs), largely due to staff absence and illness, but also in part due to social distancing measures.

In the latest survey, 75 per cent of responding LAs reported  continued minor disruption to HWRC services, owing primarily to social distancing measures. Mechanical biological treatment (MBT) services reported a slight increase in disruption, while 16 per cent of MRFs continue to report some form of disruption, but all other disposal services are now largely operating normally.

Staff absence levels remained broadly static, with 98 per cent of local authorities reporting either no impact on staff absence levels from Covid-19 or less than 20 per cent of the workforce being affected. The effects of social distancing continue to be the biggest reason for service changes, with 30 per cent of authorities reporting this for collection services and 38 per cent of authorities reporting so for disposal services.

The vast majority of local authorities continue to report higher-than-usual levels of waste arisings, though an increasing number of local authorities are reporting commercial waste arisings returning to normal.

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: “One of the biggest changes we can see to waste services as a result of the lifting of many lockdown restrictions is the change to commercial waste collections.

“With more bars and restaurants, shops and offices opening, there has still been an increase in the normal operation of services in this sector. Local authorities are able to manage the continued higher levels of household waste and recycling alongside the increasing levels of commercial waste.”

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