The amount of household recycling collected has soared as much as 100% in some council areas during the COVID-19 pandemic hiking up costs to keep services running, the Local Government Association (LGA) says.
Eight in 10 councils saw an increase in the amount of recycling being collected since the outbreak and national lockdown.
Half of councils reported that they were collecting up to 20% more material for recycling than normal, with a third collecting up to 50% more and some even reporting a 100% rise.
This increase in the amount of household waste and recycling to collect has increased costs to councils, the LGA says, alongside having to implement additional cleaning of vehicles, staff shortages due to COVID-19 and disruption to collection routes with more cars parked on the roads
The LGA says that these rates are ‘not likely to return to normal any time soon’, with many people continuing to work from home.
It is calling on the Government to use its impending Spending Review to ensure all extra cost pressures on waste and recycling services as a result of the pandemic are met.
It is critical for councils to understand how the reforms around consistency, producer responsibility and the deposit return scheme for drinks containers will work together and be funded.
Councils and the waste industry also need urgent clarity on the timetable for implementation of the Government’s waste and recycling reforms, it says.
The planned reforms, which aim to cut plastic pollution by encouraging a more circular economy and charging the packaging producers the full cost of dealing with waste, is due to be implemented from 2023.
However, with the increase in recycling as a result of the coronavirus, the LGA is calling for details on the implementation of this reform, so councils can understand how the reforms will work together.
Cllr David Renard, Environment spokesperson for the Local Government Association, said: “Councils have kept waste and recycling services running during the COVID-19 outbreak, working hard to keep staff safe and deal with high volumes of household waste normally only seen at Christmas.
“This has led to additional cost pressures which must be met in full for councils to be able to maintain services and cope with this increase in the amount of recycling collected.
“The COVID-19 outbreak has interrupted progress of the Government’s waste and recycling reforms, due to be implemented from 2023.
“It is critical for councils to understand how the reforms around consistency, producer responsibility and the deposit return scheme for drinks containers will work together and be funded.”
Surge in recycling
Gateshead Council saw the total tonnage of recycling collected between April and July this year increase by 23% compared to the same period last year, with more cardboard being recycled than ever before, up 250%.
Throughout the lockdown period, Gateshead’s crews emptied over half a million bins in total.
Devon saw recycle rates increase 12% between April and June of this year, with 1,000 tonnes more glass bottles and jars and 1,300 tonnes more card collected than during the same period in 2019.
This is despite Devon already having one of the highest recycling rates in the country at 56 per cent.
Cherwell District Council saw an increase in overall recycling levels of 15% between April and August with glass seeing the biggest jump.