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SUEZ explores cost of reopening HWRCs

SUEZ recycling and recovery UK has released a document on the necessary conditions for the reopening of Household Waste and Recycling Centres (HWRCs) during the Covid-19 pandemic, warning such a move would require a significant redirection of resources from kerbside collection.

Entitled ‘What does Covid-19 mean for HWRC operations?’, the document seeks to outline ‘the considerations that SUEZ believes are necessary with regard to the regulatory conditions around, and need for, HWRC opening, as well as some of the practical issues of self-distancing when applied to HWRC layout and operation.’

Man throwing waste into a waste container at a HWRC.The advice follows a call (14 April) from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) for local authorities to reopen their HWRCs to allow residents to dispose of their bulky waste.

Around 90 per cent of councils have closed their HWRCs in response to government advice on social distancing and staffing issues caused by the pandemic.

The document, compiled by SUEZ’s Technical Development Director, Stuart Hayward-Higham, questions the basis for reopening HWRC, referring to the emergency Health Protection (Corona, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 put in place to reduce transmission of Covid-19, which state that people should only leave their homes with ‘Reasonable Excuse’, including to obtain necessities or to access critical public services.

SUEZ’s document states that: ‘Attending a household waste recycling centre (HWRC) could be considered the “accessing of critical public services” and therefore a Reasonable Excuse, but only: if the service was a compulsory service; and only if the service was not being provided in another form.’

According to this interpretation, SUEZ’s document states that HWRCs could only lawfully be reopened if residual and food waste collections (however infrequent) were suspended.

In the event that HWRCs were to be reopened, this would have to be carried out on a ‘case-by-case basis’ and ‘new temporary methods of working’ would have to be introduced to ensure the safety of employees and the public.

Measures that would have to be implemented to comply with social distancing measures at HWRCs include reducing the number of car parking spaces at sites, reducing the number of waste containers available, reducing the amount of trade waste accepted and setting strict limits on the number of visitors allowed.

Furthermore, given social distancing rules, SUEZ states that it would not be possible for staff to assist the public with heavy or bulky items – which would run contrary to Defra’s desire to reopen HWRCs so that the public can dispose of bulky waste items.

SUEZ expresses doubt over the value of reopening HWRCs, given the need to redirect resources from other areas, stating: ‘Re-opening sites will often demand resources to be withdrawn from supporting essential kerbside collections and will be of limited use even if it can be achieved. With constrained capacity at HWRCs, it is likely that queues of traffic will form, leading to frustration and potential increases in social contact and fly-tipping. Further traffic queues outside sites may also require the intervention of council or emergency services, taking them away from key Covid-19 related duties.’

You can read SUEZ’s document in full on the SUEZ website.

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