Councils warn over ‘wave of waste’

Concerns over spiralling household waste during the coronavirus outbreak have prompted councils to issue a plea to residents to minimise the rubbish they throw away.

The District Councils’ Network has voiced concerns that a ‘wave of waste’ will emerge from households in the coming weeks, as families generate more waste and recycling while rightly staying safe at home and in some cases, as a result of having stocked up with food and other goods they need.

Some councils have had to to reduce certain waste services, such as garden waste collections, as a result of many waste collection staff needing to self-isolate or to recover from illness. In some cases, councils have also closed recycling centres as part of social distancing measures to discourage non-essential travel.

The District Councils’ Network is therefore calling on residents to work with their local council to manage ‘a perfect storm’ of growing levels of rubbish coinciding with challenges for councils in collecting it. This includes considering how they can store waste or arrange for it to be safely collected during the current restrictions.

It has issued the following guidance to residents: contact your council to see if they are still operating paid for bulky waste collection; private companies offer this as well but people need to check any company they use is properly registered for handling waste by the Environment Agency; try and compost any garden waste at home; cut down cardboard boxes so they can be put into the appropriate recycling bin – this makes life much easier for waste collection staff; and store any excess waste from DIY projects, spring cleans or garden waste at home until it can be disposed of safely and legally.

Dan Humphreys, DCN lead member for Enhancing Quality of Life, said: “These are challenging times for everyone in the country right now, and all of our public services are being overstretched as a result of the coronavirus crisis. While most of the nation is quite rightly in isolation, and able to work from home, our refuse collectors continue to go out to empty people’s bins and dispose of their waste.

“Alongside many other frontline services, the efforts of our waste collection staff should be applauded, as they are playing a key role in helping to keep the country running during this difficult period. Make no mistake, councils and their contractors have plans in place to try and ensure that everyone’s bins are collected. But we would ask the public to play their part, too. Where possible we would ask residents to think twice about how much waste is put out – such a small step could make a huge difference.

“With millions safely staying at home, many producing more waste than normal, and a risk that our waste collection workforce suffers staff shortages, we have to be careful and prepared to manage a potential wave of waste. Councils are doing all they can, and we want to thank the public for helping us during this tricky period.”