Significant drop in normal food waste service collections

There has been a significant reduction in ‘normal’ food waste service collections since September, according to the 17th Covid-19 impact survey carried out by the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT).

The survey has been monitoring the impact of Covid-19 on waste services in English local authorities since March 2020.

Bins on streetThe last edition of the survey was released in the week commencing 7 September 2020, after former Chair of ADEPT’s Waste Group Ian Fielding announced it would be put ‘on hold’, with ‘so many local authorities reporting a return to good or normal levels of service delivery’.

However, the 17th survey, which was released in the week commencing 1 February 2021, has revealed decreasing numbers of local authorities reporting their waste collections as operating normally.

A total of 80 per cent of councils reported residual waste collections are operating as normal, down from 90 per cent in early September.

Recycling collections have remained steady, with a drop of 2 per cent – from 77 per cent to three-quarters of local authorities reporting normal operations.

Food waste, bulky waste and garden waste collections are experiencing the most disruption, with 60 per cent, 73 per cent and 69 per cent of local councils, respectively, reporting these services as operating normally.

Furthermore, 30 per cent are experiencing minor disruption with their food waste collection services, up from 2 per cent in September 2020. A total of 22 per cent have reported minor or major disruption to bulky waste collections in the latest survey.

Nearly all (98 per cent) councils reported commercial waste services as operating normally – up from 57 per cent in the last survey.

In addition, waste arisings were reported to have increased across the board since last September, apart from those for clinical waste and street sweepings.

The main reasons for service disruptions were identified as: effects of self-isolation (reported by 61 per cent of responding authorities up from 5 per cent in September 2020), staff absence due to sickness (46 per cent, up from 6 per cent) and effects of social distancing (30 per cent).

The waste service experiencing most disruption was identified as Household Waste Recycling Centres, with 38 per cent of councils reporting minor disruption at these, 13 per cent experiencing major disruption, and 2 per cent experiencing severe disruption.

All Mechanical Biological Treatment (MBT) facilities were reported to be operating as normal.

In total, 78 per cent of local councils experienced up to a 20 per cent reduction in staff absence levels, up from 37 per cent in the previous survey.

Steve Palfrey, Chair of ADEPT’s Waste Group, said: “Although Covid infection rates were very high in early February, the impact on waste services seems to be comparable to June 2020, when case rates were much lower, reflecting the effective measures councils and contractors have put in place to minimise infection risks to staff and service users.

“I want to thank officers for taking the time to respond to the survey and, of course, our teams who are working so hard to maintain these critical services.”

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