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Online platform to match struggling councils with private sector

An online platform will launch later this week matching local authorities facing challenges in maintaining their waste collection services during the Covid-19 outbreak with private contractors that have spare capacity.A Biffa collection truck

The match-making service WasteSupport, developed by the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM), will enable authorities to indicate where they need service capacity support, equipment such as PPE (personal protective equipment) or vehicle maintenance engineers. In turn, commercial waste collection firms will indicate via the ‘virtual marketplace’ resources they can supply.

The site will only be accessible to local authorities and licensed or permitted waste operators, with all users required to prove their credentials in order to gain access. Once verified, users will be able to search services provided or needed. Where a match is found, users will have access to contact details, allowing them to begin discussions with a potential partner.

Waste services have been experiencing disruption as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with services such as garden waste and bulky waste collections being suspended to ensure that high-priority services can continue to be delivered. Defra has published guidance (7 April) for local authorities on which waste and recycling collection services to prioritise during the outbreak.

The platform has been developed in line with public procurement rules, particularly regulation 32(2)(c) of the Public Contract Regulations 2015, which permits an easement of normal public procurement procedures for short contracts ‘for reasons of extreme urgency brought about by events unforeseeable by the contracting authority’, such as the Covid-19 outbreak. The government recently published guidance for local authorities on using this provision, entitled, ‘Procurement Policy Note 01/20: Responding to COVID-19’.

Supporting collaborative working

Commenting on the challenges the coronavirus pandemic has brought to the waste collection sector, Trevor Nicoll, CIWM President and Head of Greater Cambridge Shared Waste Service said: “Local authorities are facing staff shortages as waste operatives are having to self-isolate, either as a precautionary measure or because they are unwell. This may lead to councils having to temporarily change the type or frequency of collection services they offer, as well as place pressure on other waste-related services.

“In parallel, many commercial waste companies are finding that their commercial waste collection workload has reduced as many businesses temporarily close and are faced with having to furlough staff. WasteSupport is intended to bridge this gap and support collaborative working that will benefit both the public and private sector in these difficult times.”

The platform brings together cross sector support from Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT), the Environmental Services Association (ESA), the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC), the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB), the United Resource Operators Consortium (UROC) and the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), in discussion with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

ESA Executive Director Jacob Hayler said: “Although the private sector is still delivering on the frontline of council waste services, many operators have additional resources which are now under-utilised, since commercial and industrial business has declined as household waste volumes ramp up during this crisis. These resources could be put to better use serving pressured local authorities, so this platform provides a great match-making tool to bring both halves of this equation together.”

Wayne Hubbard, Chief Executive Officer of LWARB, said: “LWARB is really pleased to be part of this initiative. It’s fantastic that the whole sector is working together and pulling in the ame direction to support each other and the country to overcome the challenge of the Covid pandemic. When we come through this crisis, I hope we come out stronger as a sector, with new partnerships and open to new opportunities which will help us tackle the larger threat of climate change.”

Jennifer Watts, Chief Executive of UROC, added: “UROC represents independent waste and resource operators and has been inundated with offers from members to help wherever and however they can. The ability for the private sector to respond dynamically and flexibly to waste management needs will be key to making the marketplace a success in connecting the right people in the right places.”

Once WasteSupport goes live, the sign-up link will be shared by partner networks to their members and on their websites.