Over half of HWRCs are open but disrupted, says survey

Over half of Household Waste and Recycling Centres (HWRCs) have now reopened, though with significant disruption, according to the latest Covid-19 local authority impacts survey, as the number of councils providing normal food waste and garden waste collection services increases.

An image of a HWRC

The latest survey from the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT) covers the week starting 11 May and is the seventh Covid-19 impacts survey.

Regarding HWRCs, 54 per cent of local authorities (LAs) have now opened their sites – a significant increase from last week where 86 per cent were closed. Nevertheless, only three per cent of HWRCs are operating normally, the majority experiencing “significant disruption” to varying degrees: minor (26 per cent), moderate (21 per cent) and severe (four per cent).

North of the border, Scottish councils are planning to coordinate the reopening of HWRCs on 1 June according to the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA). Whilst ADEPT stated that English councils were planning to reopen HWRCs in a “controlled and consistent” manner, reopenings across the country have been staggered and have lacked a unified approach.

In terms of collection services, the percentage of English LAs operating food waste collections normally has increased significantly from 68 per cent in last week’s survey to 90 per cent. Similarly, councils report 76 per cent of garden waste collection services are operating normally, a 20 per cent increase from last week.

Currently, responding LAs reported that 95 per cent of residual waste are operating normally, a four per cent increase from last week. In turn, 76 per cent of recycling collections are operating normally, however, 21 per cent are experiencing minor disruption, although this has been a slight improvement (four per cent decrease) from last week. 

Whilst the majority of disposal services are operating as normal, with the exception of HWRCs, the latest survey reports that there has been a slight increases in disruption for open-windrow composting, with 87 per cent operating normally, a decrease of three per cent from last week, and MRFs, which have seen a five per increase in services experiencing minor disruption. 

Staff absence levels are now largely below 20 per cent of the workforce, with 79 per cent of LAs reported a ‘less than 20 per cent reduction on staffing levels’. Similarly, 10 per cent of LAs reported a ‘20-40 per cent reduction’ on staffing levels, which is less than a third of the share reporting this level of disruption at the end of March.

However, the effects of social distancing continue to be the largest reason for disposal service disruption, reported by 40 per cent of responding LAs; whilst the greatest cause of disruption for collection services remains staff absence due to self isolation, identified by 56 per cent of responding councils.

The seventh edition of the survey gathered responses from more than 250 LAs and is supported by the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC), the Local Government Association (LGA) and the National Association of Waste Disposal Officers (NAWDO).

Speaking on behalf of these key networks Ian Fielding, Chair of ADEPT’s Waste Group said: “The opening of HWRCS continues across the country with varying levels of disruption as we work to maintain the safety of our teams and the general public.

“That so many services are returning to normal levels or with minimal disruption, and that we can see improvements week on week, is encouraging. Once again, I would like to thank our teams for their continued hard work in extremely difficult circumstances.”

You can view ADEPT’s survey results in full on its website.