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Social distancing now greatest cause of waste disruptions, says survey

Social distancing is now the greatest cause of collection and disposal waste disruptions, according to the latest Covid-19 local authority (LA) impacts survey, as most authorities continue to report greater than usual levels of waste collected. Household waste - wheelie bins along a street

The latest survey from the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT) covers the week starting 1 June and is the ninth Covid-19 impacts survey.

The effects of social distancing are the greatest reported cause for disruption to collection and disposal services, highlighted by 37 per cent of LAs and 35 per cent respectively.

This has overtaken staff absences due to self-isolation as the greatest reported cause; in disposal services this factor has dropped by 50 per cent since 30 March to 13 per cent, and in collection services was identified as a factor for 34 per cent of LAs.

Absence due to sickness is reported to be a cause for disruption to collection services by 23 per cent of LAs and is the third highest reported cause of disruption to disposal services, reported by eight per cent of responding LAs. Similarly, most councils now report less than 20 per cent reduction in workforce levels.

Whilst the majority of residual and recycling collections are operating normally, some LAs have reported increased levels of minor disruption; 84 per cent of LAs report residual waste collections as operating as normal, with 15 per cent experiencing minor disruption, an increase of seven per cent from the previous survey.

Regarding recycling collections, 75 per cent of councils report the service is operating normally, a drop from 81 per cent previously, while minor disruption is reported by 22 per cent of responding authorities.

Bulky and garden waste collections continue to make a slow recovery, though a low level of services remain suspended.

57 per cent of corresponding authorities report that bulky waste services are operating normally, an increase from 49 per cent previously. Similarly, 74 per cent of responding councils report that garden waste collections are operating normally, a slight improvement from last week.

Almost all Household Waste and Recycling Centres (HWRCs) are now open although the majority are operating with disruption. Only one per cent of LAs responding to the survey report their HWRCs to be closed, though around three in four report minor or moderate levels of disruption among HWRCs that are in operation.

Overall, most authorities report that greater than usual levels of waste is being collected.
Household waste collections are still reporting greater tonnages due to increased amounts of people working at home, while commercial collections are still greatly reduced – 82 per cent of LAs highlighted a reduction in collected commercial waste arisings relative to usual.

Regarding residual waste arisings, 91 per cent of LAs continue to report higher than usual quantities, with 59 per cent reporting increases to be in the region of ‘0-20 per cent greater than normal’.

In terms of recycling, 88 per cent of LAs reported recycling waste arisings to be greater than usual, with most reporting increases to be in the region of ‘0-20 per cent’.

Moreover, higher than usual arisings of collected food and garden waste are reported by 69 per cent and 89 per cent of LAs, respectively.

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.

Speaking on behalf of these key networks Ian Fielding, Chair of ADEPT’s Waste Group, said: “It is apparent that council waste services are operating at a new normal, with minimal disruption and most services running at almost normal levels.  Councils have been effective in prioritising resources at core services, and reducing levels of absence and disruption are enabling other services to be reintroduced. 

“As we all adjust to continued social distancing and the implementation of safe operating procedures, there is still some inevitable disruption to services. It is good to see how well waste teams are adjusting to the new working conditions and I would like to thank the public for their understanding.”

You can read the ADEPT survey in full on its website.