Dumps close and recycling collections curbed in face of coronavirus

By Emily Beament, PA Environment Correspondent

Municipal rubbish dumps have closed and a growing number of councils have cut collections of food and garden waste in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

The UK’s major recycling and waste management companies, along with industry and local government bodies, issued a joint statement saying they are working hard to ensure bin collections continue.

But with pickups of general rubbish prioritised, householders are being warned some non-essential collection services such garden and bulky waste might have to be suspended.

Disruption to recycling collections would be a last resort, they said.

Household waste and recycling centres may be closed, and some street cleaning and litter removal services may also need to be temporarily suspended, to prioritise household collections in the face of staff shortages.

Waste and resources company Suez said household waste and recycling centres it operates in Greater Manchester, Cornwall, Calderdale and Blackburn and Darwen have shut.

Tips have also closed in counties across England, including across East Anglia, Leicestershire, Shropshire and Staffordshire, in light of Government orders to ensure social distancing.

It means residents, including those who may be using the enforced spell at home for spring cleaning or DIY, will not be able to take their rubbish to the dump.

A number of councils have announced changes to their recycling collections as staff become ill or are forced to self-isolate, while many more are warning residents there could be disruption to services.

People who are self-isolating are also being urged to place waste and recycling in double-bagged plastic bags and not to put their waste out for 72 hours after it has been bagged up.

Cumbria County Council has announced it is closing all 14 of its waste and recycling centres as of Wednesday evening, while some district councils in the county have suspended their garden waste collections.

The county council urged people to avoid projects that will generate rubbish such as clearing out sheds or garages.

Brighton and Hove Council said its two dumps have been temporarily closed after “very high numbers of people started using the sites in recent days, increasing the risk of the virus spreading”.

After problems with waste collections, large refuse containers are being placed at sites across the city for residents to use, rubbish pickups are being prioritised and garden waste collections suspended for two weeks.

Manchester City Council announced garden and food recycling bins and caddies will not be collected until further notice, to ensure normal collection of rubbish bins, with residents urged to compost food waste at home or throw it in the bin.

Bury Council has told residents it will not be picking up brown bins for garden and food waste this week or next, while Bolton said priority will be given to the collection of rubbish, food waste containers and green bins, with recycling bins “emptied where possible”.

Garden waste collections have been suspended in areas including Bournemouth and Poole and Leeds, while councils such as Plymouth, which were planning to restart pickups of garden cuttings for the spring, now say they are not going to do so.

Newcastle-under-Lyme is also warning residents of changes to their recycling collections as a result of staff self-isolating, with householders told to put food waste into the rubbish bin if it is not collected separately.

They are following the lead of local authorities including Cambridge City Council, Cheshire West and Chester and Derby City Council, which had already suspended services such as garden and food waste pickups.

A spokesman for the Local Government Association said: “Councils are leading local efforts to support communities through the coronavirus crisis.

“As councils prioritise protecting the vulnerable, there will be inevitable disruption to other important services, such as bin collections and street cleaning.

“Some councils are having to change their waste and recycling services as coronavirus impacts on their collection staff. They will continue to work hard to keep waste and recycling services working as effectively as possible.”

Reductions in collections of kitchen scraps come amid concerns that there will be an increase in food waste as people throw away the fresh food they had stockpiled in panic-buying which saw supermarket shelves emptied.

Adam Read, external affairs director for Suez, said: “It is too early for us to see an upward trend in the data for household food waste collections.

“However, with people cooking and eating more if not all of their meals at home as we become a nation of home-workers and home-schoolers, we would expect to see a rise in food waste collected from households in the coming weeks.”

He added there will be a fall in food waste from businesses owing to the closure of restaurants and cafes.

“We would as ever encourage households to minimise food waste for example by freezing leftovers and avoiding buying more perishable goods than they can use,” he said.