Message from waste sector to public: “We’re working hard to maintain your services”

Waste sector “working hard” to ensure your bins are still collected, but it needs your help to do this, public told.

Britain’s biggest private recycling and waste management companies, along with industry and local government bodies, have jointly issued a message to the public, urging people to follow government advice about how those in self-isolation should manage their household rubbish – to protect waste workers and prevent the spread of infection.

While emphasising that bins will continue to be collected throughout the Coronavirus crisis, the statement also warns that some “non-essential services” might be affected in coming weeks in the event of staff shortages.

The COVID-19 pandemic is rapidly changing daily lives and causing significant disruption, which looks set to continue for some time, the statement says – but this disruption is “absolutely necessary” if, together, we are to limit the spread and impact of this disease.

The joint statement, which was signed by the likes of Biffa, Veolia, Viridor and SUEZ, states: “We wanted to take the opportunity to reassure everyone that, whatever else might happen, we’re working hard to ensure that your bins are still collected in the coming weeks and months. But, we need your help to do this.

We’re working hard to ensure that your bins are still collected in the coming weeks and months. But, we need your help to do this.

“There are around twenty-seven million households in the United Kingdom and, collectively, they produce the equivalent of a tonne of rubbish each, every year. Collecting, sorting, and processing the waste from this many households is a huge daily challenge and requires a workforce of more than 107,000 people, who have been identified by Government as key workers, providing support during this crisis.

“For the time being, many household recycling and waste collections are operating normally and everyone should continue to reduce, re-use and recycle as much of their waste as possible. Your local council is ultimately responsible for recycling and waste services, so please follow all of the guidance they provide so that we can keep these vital services moving efficiently.”

It reiterates Government advice, which states that in order to protect workers and combat the spread of infection, anyone who feels ill at home (whether diagnosed with COVID-19 or not) should place all their waste in the general waste bin, and should double-bag it, making sure the bags are securely tied.

For the time being, many household recycling and waste collections are operating normally and everyone should continue to reduce, re-use and recycle as much of their waste as possible

They should then wait at least 72 hours before placing it out for collection. For now, this material should not be put in your recycling.

“Like other critical industries, staff shortages may interfere with recycling and waste services, so we are doing all we can to mitigate this risk,” the statement says. “To ensure we can continue to collect general rubbish, which must be prioritised for hygiene reasons, it might be necessary to temporarily change or suspend some non-essential collection services like garden and bulky waste.

“Any disruption to recycling services will be a last resort and, if this is unavoidable, we must not allow it to break our national recycling habit in the long term.”

The statement also mentions the closure to the general public of some Household Waste Recycling Centres, saying it’s also possible that some street cleaning and litter removal services may also need to be temporarily suspended to prioritise household collections.

The statement ends: “We are grateful for your support at this time of unprecedented challenge and urge you to stay safe, protect yourself and protect others.”

The statement is countersigned by:

  • The Environmental Services Association’s (ESA) largest members including Veolia, Viridor, Biffa, SUEZ, FCC, Renewi, Cory, Hills and Grundon who, together, operate the majority of outsourced council recycling and waste services.
  • WRAP – the national advisory body on recycling and resource-efficiency
  • LARAC – the Local Government Recycling Advisory Committee, which is comprised of local authority representatives
  • The Recycling Association – which represents recyclers and re-processors across the UK and internationally
  • The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management – the professional body for waste management professionals
  • On Pack Recycling Label Ltd – the organisation responsible for designing and implementing on-pack recycling information in the UK
  • The Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport (ADEPT) – represents Place Directors from county, unitary, metropolitan and combined authorities
  • The National Association of Waste Disposal Officers (NAWDO) – which represents senior local authority waste service managers

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