Guidance on prioritising waste collection services during coronavirus

A guide to help local authorities and other waste collectors prioritise their waste collection services during the coronavirus pandemic.


Published 7 April 2020 From: Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs



1. Recommendations for prioritising waste collection services

A guide to help local authorities and other waste collectors prioritise their waste collection services during the coronavirus pandemic. It has been developed with comments from local authorities and the waste industry. This is non-statutory guidance to assist local authorities to maintain services during the period affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Circumstances vary from local authority to local authority and some of the recommendations may not be appropriate for some local authorities. Many local authorities already have contingency plans which they are now implementing and these should be taken into account in service planning. The first duty of any local authority is to protect the health of staff and residents and it is with this in mind that the recommendations in this guide have been made. This guidance is intended as temporary and government is monitoring developments on waste services provision with local authorities and the waste sector. Local authorities are encouraged to maintain services as much as possible. The contents of the guide may change to align with the latest advice from the government on the coronavirus pandemic. Waste collection is a devolved policy. This guidance applies to English local authorities only. 1.1 Maintaining residual waste (black bag) collections

It is important that local authorities maintain collections of residual waste and food waste and prevent waste from building up so as to protect local amenity and public health. We recognise the pressures that the current coronavirus pandemic is placing upon local authorities, and that social distancing measures may mean councils are seeing more waste produced from households than normal. The information below aims to provide some guidance on how collections can be prioritised to maintain overall service and prevent any build up of waste that could be harmful to local amenity and public health. Guidance onmanaging risks from coronavirus is available from gov.uk and detailed guidance on managing health and safety risks from the coronavirus is available fromPHEandHSE/WISH.PHEhas also issued guidance on managing waste within the home for those that have self-isolated, which can be found under ‘cleaning and disposal of waste’. This states that personal waste (such as used tissues) and disposable cleaning cloths can be stored securely within disposable rubbish bags. These bags should be placed into another bag, tied securely and kept separate from other waste. This should be put aside for at least 72 hours before being put in your usual external household waste bin. Householders should be given clear advice to put tissues and similar waste into their residual bin and not into recycling bins. 1.2 Aim to maintain dry recyclables collections

Recycled material plays an important part in the health of the economy, providing raw material to make new products, as well as protecting the environment. Local authorities should seek to maintain current waste services as far as possible, including the separate collection of food waste and of dry recyclable materials. However, we recognise that the current coronavirus pandemic is presenting some serious challenges and therefore appreciate and expect that local authorities will have to make decisions where necessary to change or close services temporarily, bearing in mind their statutory duties. It’s important that councils protect their regular collections of residual (black bag) waste, and prevent waste from building up. 1.3 Communicate to residents

Local authorities are responsible for providing clear communications on services to residents. It is essential that authorities communicate any changes to collection services with as much advanced warning as possible and make clear that any changes are occurring to prioritise public health during this unprecedented time. It is also beneficial to suggest to residents that given that services may be stretched during the coronavirus pandemic this is not a suitable time for clear outs or transporting rubbish to HWRCs. 1.4 Allocating staff to waste services

Consideration should be given to the reallocation of appropriate staff from elsewhere within the local authority or waste collection company to maintain minimum statutory services. Consideration should also be given to pooling resources between authorities and to use of agency staff, and collaboration with the commercial waste operators. 2. Key to prioritisation

High priority – These services are the most important and should continue as normal. These services are a legal requirement and/or otherwise there are likely to be severe impacts on environmental and human health if they are suspended completely. Local authority residents are most likely to rely on these high priority services. Medium priority – If these services are stopped there will be some disruption but the impacts won’t be as severe as the high priority services being suspended. There will be less risk to human health than if high priority services are suspended. These services are important although local authority residents are less reliant on these services than high priority services. Low priority –There will be minimal or no impact or disruption if these services are suspended. There will also be minimal or no risk to human health if these services or stopped. 3. Residual (‘black bag’) refuse collection

Priority: High Action: Maintain

Risks if service reduced or stopped

Build-up of putrescible waste can be a risk to human health. Where collections are bagged rather than in containers there is a need to maintain regular collections to prevent local public and environmental health impacts. Mitigation Reallocate staff from other services where possible. Provide clear communications to householders on how their waste collection services will change. Where separate food waste collections are in place frequency of collections could be reviewed to maintain reasonable service. Ensure householders have clear communications on service frequency and when to put out bags or containers for collection. This includes giving clear guidance to householders who have coronavirus or have self- isolated that used tissues should be double bagged and stored within the home for 72 hours before being put outside for collectionas per thePHEguidance.

Rationale This service must be maintained by local authorities (Environmental Protection Act 1990) to ensure collection for putrescible and high-volume composite/non-recyclable waste which presents storage and health risks and local amenity impacts. If refuse is not collected there could be increase in complaints from residents. 4. Food waste

Priority: High

Action Where food waste is collected weekly these services should be maintained so far as possible so that putrescible waste is removed frequently. For mixed food and garden waste collections, these would need to continue as for food waste to prevent food and garden waste build up. As a last resort it may be necessary to stop food waste collections temporarily and ask residents to put food waste in the same container as their residual waste and not to collect garden waste.

Risks if service reduced or stopped Will need to reschedule refuse collections in order to maintain regular collection of putrescible waste. Bioaerosol risk if food left for several weeks. Where separate food waste collection is stopped this may impact on Anaerobic digestion and energy production. Short term changes should be discussed with treatment service providers. Mitigation Reallocate staff from other collections to assist with food waste collections if possible. Provide clear communication on service changes as necessary. Rationale Easier to maintain organics collections than other services due to crew numbers per vehicle being lower. Temporary stoppage of food waste collections may make it harder to get householders back on board when restarted so seek to maintain service where possible. 5. Dry recyclables collections (fortnightly)

Priority: Medium Action: Maintain

Risks if service reduced or stopped Expectation that people staying at home might see an increase in recyclable material at home. Build up at households may mean more dry recyclables end in residual waste, potentially increasing disposal costs. Householders may take time to revert to recycling once normal service is resumed if collections are interrupted for a significant length of time Recyclate is an important source of raw materials for new packaging and if removed supply chain gaps might appear. Local authorities must collect at least two types of recyclable waste from households separately from other waste (Environmental Protection Act 1990) and collect waste paper, metal, plastic and glass separately where technically, economically and environmentally practicable. Mitigation Consider changing frequency of collections rather than stopping collection altogether. Communicate service changes clearly and need to store recyclate at home (if necessary) Develop contingency plan and comms strategy for when restarting. Rationale Low risk to health. Need to provide clear communications on service changes and to plan resources and communications for restart. 6. Dry recyclables (weekly)

Priority: Low Action: Consider changing to collection to fortnightly.

Risks if service reduced or stopped Build-up of recyclables at households. Gaps in supply of recyclate to reprocessors. Local authorities must collect at least two types of recyclable waste from households separately from other waste (Environmental Protection Act 1990) and collect waste paper, metal, plastic and glass separately where technically, economically and environmentally practicable. Mitigation Consider changing frequency. If food co-collected then need to supply residents with a separate collection on alternate weeks or provide clear advice to use residual bin in intervening week. Rationale Low risk to health. Need to plan resources for restart. 7. Garden waste

Priority: Low Action: Review frequency of service as necessary and consider temporary cessation.

Risks if service reduced or stopped There is a Bioaerosol risk if collections are reduced beyond 2 weeks. Where services are halted authorities may need to reimburse customers for any break in service. Mitigation Communicate temporary cessation of service. Communicate home composting alternative for garden waste. Rationale Better to stop services for short term than create further hazard with lower frequency of organics collection. 8. Household Waste Recycling centres (HWRC)

Priority: Medium

Action: If it is possible to keep HWRCs open, make sure that social distancing rules can be maintained. Always provide adequate staffing levels for health and safety and security purposes. Risks if service reduced or stopped There is a potential for increased fly-tipping especially if other collections fail. Some users of HWRCs may not have capacity to store waste at home indefinitely. Local authorities must provide places for residents to deposit their household waste at all reasonable times.

Mitigation Consider whether priority sites can be maintained with restricted access. Provide communications that make it clear that residents should not leave home except for essentials and ensure social distancing is maintained on sites. Consider maintaining some places for specific groups of users that have difficulty or are unable to store waste in short term or commercial and industrial waste disposal. Temporary reductions in HWRC services should be reviewed in line with updates to government guidance on the coronavirus pandemic. Rationale Some journeys to HWRCS may be necessary to avoid rubbish building up and a public health risk. Where possible key sites should be maintained and if necessary, access controlled. Where practical a limited and controlled access service may be feasible to reduce risk of fly tipping and to provide essential access for those not able to store waste indefinitely. 9. Bring sites

Priority: Low - medium Action: Maintain if possible.

Staff from other services could be asked to maintain if have capacity. Risks if service reduced or stopped Could be used more than usual which means there might be a build-up of recycling materials and other waste outside the containers. Depending on the composition of this waste, there could be a health risk. Mitigation Provide communications about responsible waste disposal and duty of care for householders and users of sites. Rationale Low risk but could present a health and safety risk. 10. Fly-tipping

Priority: High Action: Maintain - but prioritise what is cleared.

Risks if service reduced or stopped Build-up of household waste flytipping may cause public health concerns. Local authorities must keep land and highways they are responsible for clear, as far as is practicable, of litter and refuse. Mitigation Provide clear messaging to householders on duty of care and penalties for fly-tipping. Communicate clear messaging on using registered carriers to avoid waste crime and risk of flytipping. Focus available resources on known hotspots and prioritise collection of fly-tipped putrescible waste. Rationale Flytipping may increase where households feel they need to remove waste from homes because of reduced services or closure of HWRCs. 11. Trade waste collections

Priority: Medium Action: Review schedule and provide reduced frequency service to low volume, low risk customers. Promote local sub-contractors. Risks if service reduced or stopped Build-up of putrescible and general waste where businesses are operable. Mitigation Identify and prioritise sectors needing a maintained collection (such as care homes). Communicate frequency schedule. Sub-contract as necessary to private sector. Rationale Fewer collections needed as current government advice is that certain businesses and venues must close. 12. Care homes

Priority: High Action: Maintain

Risks if service reduced or stopped Clinical waste needs to be managed to prevent infections. PHE guidelines should be followed when managing potentially contaminated waste. Mitigation Prioritise collections. Sub-contract clinical waste specialists. Manage PPE as residual waste according to PHE guidance on residential care. Rationale Need to control risk of spreading infection especially in care home setting. 13. Dedicated Clinical or Absorbent Hygiene Product (AHP) waste collections from householders

Priority: High Action: Maintain

Risks if service reduced or stopped Clinical and AHP waste needs to be managed to prevent infections and protect public and environmental health. PHE guidelines should be followed when managing potentially contaminated waste. Mitigation These are normally specialised collections using dedicated sub-contracted clinical waste specialists. Manage PPE as according to PHE guidance on home care. Rationale Impact on household amenity. Risk of infection if allowed to build up. 14. Assisted collections

Priority: High Action: Maintain

Risks if service reduced or stopped Vulnerable householders unable to present waste for collection. Mitigation Ensure assisted collections are maintained (if necessary, prioritise collections of putrescible waste). Make sure residents and carers are aware of and follow PHE guidance for the disposal of waste where persons have self-isolated. Rationale Ensures vulnerable householders continue to have their waste collected. 15. Bulky items (furniture, fridges)

Priority: Low Action: Review service as necessary and consider alternative collectors or temporary cessation where necessary. Risks if service reduced or stopped Storage issues at household sites, supplier run take back schemes. Risk of increased levels of fly-tipping. Mitigation Communicate changes and review policies to comply with social distancing and hygiene advice if collecting items. Rationale Households could store items in short term. Avoid risk of spreading coronavirus to staff and householders. 16. Deliveries of replacement containers

Priority: Low Action: Prioritise containers for putrescible waste (such as residual and food waste). Risks if service reduced or stopped If there are insufficient containers for putrescible waste there’s an increased risk from decaying food. Mitigation Prioritise containers for putrescible waste (such as residual and food waste). Rationale Containment reduces the risk of public health hazards.


SOURCE: GOVERNMENT

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