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Household Waste Recycling Centres still under strain - local authorities publish 20th report into impact of COVID-19

25 March 2021

Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) are still under pressure, mostly because of COVID-19 social distancing requirements, the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT) 20th waste impacts survey has found.

The survey, run in collaboration with 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), examines the impacts of COVID-19 on waste services in England.

This survey was undertaken the week beginning 15th March with only 24% of responding local authorities reporting HWRCs operating normally. 62% recorded minor disruption and 14% described disruption to the service as moderate. The main reason cited was the limited capacity of sites due to social distancing. Traditionally, this time of year sees HWRCs dealing with increased use, putting them under extra strain. 

Conversely, the picture for core waste collection services has improved, with around 20% of responding councils reporting service disruption due to Covid-19, and only minor disruption reported across most collection services. 78% of household waste collections (up from 71% in the previous survey) and 76% (up from 69%) of recycling collections are operating normally, with 76% (up from 65%) of food waste collections and 83% (up from 74%) of garden waste collections also reporting no disruption.

The majority of those reporting service disruption identified staff absences due to self-isolation as the principal cause (49%) and staff sickness (37%) being the other main reason. Other disposal and treatment services continue to report little or no disruption in this latest survey.

The vast majority (90%) of fly-tipping clearance collections are reported to be operating as normal, with only 7% of responding local authorities reporting minor disruption. In the previous survey, these levels were 84% and 16% respectively.

Speaking on behalf of these key networks Steve Palfrey Chair of ADEPT’s Waste Group said: “The improvement in core collections is great news and reflects both a welcome change in impacts of COVID-19 due to the lockdown and how hard our teams are working.

“Local authority teams and contractors are managing to keep the majority of HWRCs operating normally despite increased use and social distancing measures. As we come into the busiest period for recycling centres, we would ask people to be patient and to plan their trip to avoid peak times.

“This survey will be the last for the time being, but we will keep monitoring the situation through our members as we come out of lockdown.”

 The results of all previous waste surveys are available here.