WRA urges Welsh Government to keep HWRCs open

The Wood Recyclers’ Association (WRA) has called on the Welsh Government to keep Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) open during the country’s ‘firebreak’ lockdown from 23 October to 9 November.

According to the WRA, closing HWRCs across Wales will have a detrimental effect on Welsh businesses that rely on a supply of waste wood to keep operations running.

Household Waste Recycling CentreAndy Hill, Chair of the WRA, said: “If the waste wood supply stream is stopped during this lockdown period, the feedstock for these major Welsh businesses will be seriously compromised. They will lose around 2,500 tonnes of material on top of the losses they have already suffered due to previous Covid-19 restrictions.”

The Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) has defended the decision to close HWRCs during this period. A spokesperson acknowledged that, even though local authorities have managed to operate HWRCs in Covid-safe ways, the objective of the closures is to emphasise the lockdown and that it is not business as usual  Therefore, the ‘vast majority of these trips (to HWRCs) could not be considered to be so essential that they cannot wait for a fortnight’.

In the letter Hill wrote to the Welsh Government, WRA members Kronospan and Margam Green Energy were mentioned as businesses whose operations would be negatively impacted by the closure, since they use much of the 60,000 tonnes of waste wood per annum collected from HWRCs.

Kronospan, a wood-based panel manufacturer, has a turnover of £234 million and 654 employees, of whom 90 per cent live within a 10-mile radius of the site in Chirk, north Wales.

Meanwhile, Margam Green Energy, a biomass facility based in Port Talbot, has 400 employees and provides electricity for up around 75,000 homes across south Wales. Both companies rely on a supply of waste wood from recycling centres.

Acknowledging the need for a ‘firebreak’ lockdown in Wales, Hill questioned in the letter why safety measures put in place in HWRCs from the country’s first period of lockdown, including one-way systems, booking systems and social distancing, cannot be used again. He also pushed for HWRCs to remain open during any future periods of lockdown.

Hill commented: “We know that during the last lockdown, measures were put in place to ensure that HWRCs could operate safely and all we are asking is that these same measures are put in place this time. This would ensure that wood recyclers are able to source the raw material they require to keep these key Welsh businesses and others functioning.”