Sheffield HWRCs risk closure after staff abuse, warns council

Sheffield City Council has implored members of the public to respect waste operatives at Household Waste and Recycling Centres (HWRCs) after reports of abuse have surfaced, warning they risk closure if abuse continues.

An image of Sheffield City Centre

Sheffield’s five HWRCs, run by waste management company Veolia, have remained open throughout the pandemic despite the majority of HWRCs across England remaining shut due to the Covid-19 lockdown. Currently, 86 per cent of the HWRCs remain closed across the country, although 94 per cent have plans to reopen in the next few weeks.

In an announcement on Friday (15 May), Sheffield City Council commented on the threats and verbal abuse reported by waste operatives who have worked ‘tirelessly’ during the pandemic to keep the HWRCs open.

Underlining its zero tolerance policy to incidents of abuse, the council stated that these incidents have been reported to the Police and cautions that if cases of abusive behaviour continue, undermining the ‘paramount’ safety of the public and site staff, HWRCs could face closure.

The council comments that the HWRCs have not been able to receive as many visits as usual to ensure ‘safe social distancing’ to limit the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

Urging residents to ‘fully co-operate and use the sites safely and responsibly,’ the council presses visitors to ‘listen and be courteous’ to staff and understand that the new Covid-19 safety guidance means staff are unable to help carry waste, so residents must ensure they are able to carry any of the waste they bring to the HWRC sites without assistance.

Like other councils across England who have called for residents to only visit HWRCs if ‘essential’, Sheffield Council asks visitors to only visit a HWRC to dispose of waste that cannot be safely stored at home and which may cause an accessibility, fire or safety issue or which may attract vermin, in line with the latest government advice.

To avoid unnecessary trips to the centres, the council asks residents with significant volumes of DIY waste and garden waste to consider contacting a registered skip hire company and reminds that home collections can be arranged for both garden waste and bulky waste.

HWRC sites across England experienced long queues after reopening last week, and Sheffield Council presses visitors to not queue outside the sites as this may cause potential danger for other road users trying to pass.

As more HWRCs prepare to reopen in the next few weeks, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) released guidance earlier this month identifying the social distancing and hygiene measures that should be implemented to ensure health and safety across sites. These measures include two-metre distancing between individuals on site, disabling alternate parking bays, introducing markings to enable a two-metre distance between people, regularly washing hands with warm soapy water and self-isolating if staff members display Covid-19 symptoms.