Concerns over “spiralling” household waste during the COVID-19 crisis have prompted councils to issue a plea to residents to minimise the waste they throw away, and to avoid burning this on bonfires.
The District Councils’ Network has 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.
It wants residents to work with their local council to best manage bin collections.
This coincides with some councils having 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.
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
In some cases, councils have also closed recycling centres as part of social distancing measures to discourage non-essential travel.
Cllr 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.”
A perfect storm
DCN, which represents 191 district councils in England that are responsible for collecting waste, is 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.
It says that while many will be using the current period as an opportunity to spring clean their home or do some gardening, residents are asked to be mindful of how and where they dispose of their waste.
Around the country waste collectors have been inundated with positive messages of support from communities as they go about collecting household waste.
District councils are now advising households to consider how they can store waste or arrange for it to be safely collected during the current restrictions, and is issuing 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
- Store any excess waste from DIY projects, spring cleans or garden waste at home until it can be disposed of safely and legally
DCN is also urging residents against burning rubbish on bonfires, especially hazardous waste, following a spate of incidents across the country that contribute to air pollution and disturbance for neighbours who may be self-isolating.
Cllr Dan Humphreys said: “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.
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.”
The District Councils’ Network (DCN) is a cross-party member led network providing a single voice to 191 district councils.