Veolia publishes guidance on reopening ‘essential’ HWRCs

Waste management company Veolia UK and Ireland has published guidance today (20 April) for local authorities on the safe reopening of “essential” Household Waste and Recycling Centres (HWRCs) during the Covid-19 lockdown.  

Veolia’s guidance, entitled ‘HWRCs: Local authority guidance on the safe reopening of HWRC networks’, states reopening HWRCs will ‘enable councils to fulfil their obligations to provide places for residents to deposit their household waste at all reasonable times’.

Currently, 90 per cent of HWRCs remain closed due to the coronavirus crisis. However, last week the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) urged local authorities to reopen their HWRCs to enable the public to dispose of their bulky waste amid a rise in fly-tipping incidents.

Cover of Veolia's HWRC guidanceNevertheless, last week a poll conducted by SUEZ recycling and recovery UK at a webinar  on the safe operation of HWRCs found that HWRCs were considered non-essential by all 128 local authority representatives present.

Despite concerns over social distancing at civic amenity sites, Veolia’s guidance makes clear that the safety of waste operators and clients is a ‘first priority’.

The guidance sets out the stages of the restarting of HWRCs: the review of the site layout before its in operation, the functioning of social distancing on site after reopening and how the cleaning regime of the facility will function during the pandemic.

It outlines measures to maintain safety in accordance with council specifications when reopening HWRCs, including keeping minimum staff on site and setting a maximum number for vehicles on site.

To protect the safety of all, the guidance highlights that waste operatives should wear full personal protective equipment (PPE) and body cameras (for individuals on the gates) and that recycling assistants must maintain social distancing and not help members of the public. It also underlines that all contact points and handrails should be cleaned every 30 minutes.

Veolia underlines the need for ‘clear operating guidelines’ to be communicated to the public before they visit:

  • Anyone in self isolation or with COVID-19 symptoms must not visit HWRCs under any circumstances;
  • The public should only visit sites if it is absolutely necessary e.g. if bulky items stored at home represent a health and safety risk;
  • They must bring address documentation if the local authority requires it;
  • The number of vehicles on-site will be restricted and cars should be driver-only;
  • Social distancing at two metres will be strictly enforced and operatives cannot assist the public; and
  • Restricted opening hours are in place with no or limited walk-ons.

Veolia in partnership with Sheffield City Council, has continued to operate the Sheffield HWRC network for “essential trips” throughout the lockdown.

Commenting on the launch of the guide, Richard Kirkman, Veolia’s Head of Covid-19 Response and Chief Technology and Innovation Officer, said: “Ensuring the safety of our dedicated waste teams and the public is essential, especially during these unprecedented times. Our new guide now provides valuable advice to help both local authorities and contractors to manage the safe operation of HWRCs during the developing coronavirus situation.

“By reopening these facilities we can ensure local authorities can maintain the vital recycling and waste management infrastructure in their local areas, provide an essential service and reduce the environmental damage caused by fly tipping."

You can read Veolia’s full guidance on PDF PDF icon HWRCs: Local authority guidance on the safe reopening of HWRC networks.

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