UK waste and recycling companies issue joint coronavirus statement
The UK’s largest waste and recycling companies, along with industry and local government associations, have issued a joint statement to the public urging residents to follow government advice on how to manage their household rubbish to minimise the spread of coronavirus to waste workers.
Today’s (25 March) statement, coordinated by the Environmental Services Association (ESA), sought to reassure residents that waste management companies were “working hard to ensure that your bins are still collected in the coming weeks and months” but that it would require the cooperation of the public to do this.
While it advised residents to continue to place materials out for recycling, it urged them to follow the government’s advice to anyone who feels ill, whether they are diagnosed with coronavirus or not, to self-isolate and place all their waste in the general rubbish bin, whether it is recyclable or not, and double-bag it, waiting for 72 hours before placing it out for collection.
Furthermore, the signatories to the statement acknowledged that staff shortages may interfere with regular recycling and waste services, and warned residents that it “might be necessary to temporarily change or suspend some non-essential collection services like garden and bulky waste”, and some street cleaning and litter removal services might be suspended to prioritise household collections.
The statement made clear that disruption to recycling services would be a “last resort” and that it should not break recycling habits in the long term.
Residents were also advised that some Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) will be temporarily closed and people should not be leaving their homes to visit these sites.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused severe disruption in the UK, with the government taking measures including shutting pubs, clubs and restaurants, encouraging people to work from home and banning outside gatherings of more than two persons, in effect a lockdown on public activity, to slow the spread of the disease.
Waste services have already been badly affected by the outbreak, with many councils closing down Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) and reducing their waste services to protect the safety of the public and operatives.
The waste sector has been deemed a ‘key industry’ by the government, fulfilling a call made by the ESA on Thursday (19 March) last week. This means that waste operatives have been deemed ‘key workers’ and are exempt from government advice to stay at home.
“The Covid-19 pandemic is rapidly changing our daily lives and causing significant disruption. This looks set to continue for some time, but this disruption is absolutely necessary if, together, we are to limit the spread and impact of this disease.
“We wanted to take the opportunity to reassure everyone that, whatever else might happen, we’re working hard to ensure that your bins are still collected in the coming weeks and months. But, we need your help to do this.
“There are around twenty-seven million households in the United Kingdom and, collectively, they produce the equivalent of a tonne of rubbish each, every year. Collecting, sorting, and processing the waste from this many households is a huge daily challenge and requires a workforce of more than 107,000 people, who have been identified by government as key workers, providing support during this crisis.
“For the time being, many household recycling and waste collections are operating normally and everyone should continue to reduce, re-use and recycle as much of their waste as possible. Your local council is ultimately responsible for recycling and waste services, so please follow all of the guidance they provide so that we can keep these vital services moving efficiently.
“Following government advice, to protect workers and combat the spread of infection, anyone who feels ill at home (whether diagnosed with Covid-19 or not) should place all their waste in the general rubbish bin, and should double-bag it, making sure the bags are securely tied. They should then wait at least 72 hours before placing it out for collection. For now, this material should not be put in your recycling.
“Like other critical industries, staff shortages may interfere with recycling and waste services, so we are doing all we can to mitigate this risk. To ensure we can continue to collect general rubbish, which must be prioritised for hygiene reasons, it might be necessary to temporarily change or suspend some non-essential collection services like garden and bulky waste. Any disruption to recycling services will be a last resort and, if this is unavoidable, we must not allow it to break our national recycling habit in the long term.
“Some HWRCs will be temporarily closed to the general public and, unless essential, people should not be leaving their homes to visit these sites. It is possible that some street cleaning and litter removal services may also need to be temporarily suspended to prioritise household collections.
“We are grateful for your support at this time of unprecedented challenge and urge you to stay safe, protect yourself and protect others.
The statement is countersigned by::
- The Environmental Services Association’s (ESA) largest members (Veolia, Viridor, Biffa, SUEZ, FCC, Renewi, Cory, Hills and Grundon)
- The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).
- The Local Government Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC).
- The Recycling Association
- The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM)
- On Pack Recycling Label Ltd (OPRL)
- The Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT)
- The National Association of Waste Disposal Officers (NAWDO)