FRM Covid 19 weekly update no. 2

This is the second of our weekly update of impacts we have observed of Covid-19 in the waste sector. 10 issues are summarised, to provide a picture of what we are seeing and hearing from our perspective in the intention of providing a sector briefing, partly because we are working now more independently than ever before, and partly because this is a rapidly moving situation.

  1. Kerbside Collections – we are seeing an increase in the number of authorities suspending certain waste collection activities over the last week, predominantly garden waste, bulky services and to a lesser extent food waste collections or reducing the frequency of collection. A survey of LAs published on Friday by Adept has the latest position. In addition, some authorities are now no longer returning to collect missed bins and not collecting side waste, so the emphasis is on the householder to make sure that bins are presented properly at the kerbside. Related to this is that requests for replacement bins are being halted in some areas. Pressure on the collection service leads to differing local advice on what materials to put into the residual bin – see your local Council website.

  2. Staffing - we are aware that collection crews are suffering absences from work, resulting in services being reduced as above (at A CIWM meeting on Friday Suez reported 15 – 20% of staff are isolating / unavailable as an estimate). We have heard that at least one authority is rapidly training office staff to support on the ground waste services. Some authorities are transferring staff from commercial waste services, street cleansing and grounds maintenance activities (all of which have reduced demand) to supplement waste collection services.

  3. Operational issues - the unprecedented increase in the number of homeworkers is leading to more parked cars on the road hampering the movement of RCVs in urban areas. On a more immediate note, this can also be detrimental to access by emergency services vehicles.

  4. Impact on fly tipping – a number of Local Authorities are reporting an increase in fly tipping cases, either a result of direct fly tipping from residents, or through illegal waste operators. Anecdotally this has risen 300%. Councils are using social media channels to urge householders to consider their duty of care, and store waste until HWRCs and bulky waste collection operations are resumed. Communication and enforcement will be key in this area.

  5. Environmental monitoring – some environmental protection teams are no longer performing routine inspections, so complaints take longer to investigate and rectify.

  6. Waste classification - Clinical waste is typically classified as waste code 180103 – infectious waste for incineration only. From a clinical perspective, Covid-19 waste is classed as 180103, with Category B status, suitable for alternative treatment. The classification of waste is particularly relevant for the NHS when accessing treatment capacity. The category B classification is considered risk averse but may ensure that the waste is treated more promptly. The advice for household waste remains the same: any waste thought to have been in contact with someone displaying symptoms of Covid-19 is to keep waste tied in bags for 72 hours before presenting at the kerbside. Advice currently stands that householders should continue to recycle and dispose of residual waste in line with their Local Authority operations.

  7. Waste composition and trends – In some sectors, demand in commercial waste has gone down (hospitality, retail), however it is likely there will be increasing waste from within the food production supply chain and within healthcare service. An increase in household waste arisings is being seen due to home working and more time spent at home. Specific waste stream changes could occur, for example Ocado announced ceasing bottled water delivery which will add c. 6000 home visits to their service per week.

  8. Treatment capacity – this is a mixed picture and very dependent on the sources of waste, for example facilities that are reliant on commercial waste sources (e.g. RDF or hospitality / food contracts) could suffer from a sudden (and continued) lack of supply, which may impact on Energy from Waste and Anaerobic Digestion facilities. Conversely those treating household derived wastes may experience increases in supply due to greater amounts of waste generated from households. AD facilities in particular may be vulnerable if local authorities suspend separate food waste collections (this is already happening in some areas e.g. St. Helens Council), and MRFs / composting facilities similarly affected.

  9. CIWM briefing note – CIWM have put together a briefing note which summarises the latest guidance and understanding of Covid-19. This includes proof of essential business status, health & safety and operational considerations and guidance on social distancing for waste collection crews. This can be accessed here.

  10. WISH guidance – This is ‘live’ guidance so please access the WISH website for the latest position, the most recent briefing note at the time of this release was the 2nd April, see https://wishforum.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/WISH-INFO-13-COVID19-and-waste-management-activities-issue-1-2-April-2020.pdf It covers the breadth of waste management services, including specific facility types and activities (e.g. weighbridge operation).
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