FRM Covid 19 weekly update no. 4

This is the fourth in our series of weekly update of impacts we have observed of Covid-19 in the waste sector. Ten 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) Collaboration [Update on WasteSupport]: Last week, CIWM announced the launch of WasteSupport, a free tool developed to provide a resource sharing platform for local authorities and private sector waste management companies impacted by Covid-19. The tool, which has been developed with WRAP and other public and private sector organisations, allows those facing resourcing challenges to indicate where they need support; such as staffing, PPE or vehicles whilst also enabling those with additional capacity to share their services upon the platform. Sign up is free and now available here: WasteSupport

2) HWRCs: There continues to be ongoing discussions regarding the status of Household Waste and Recycling Centres (HWRCs). Amongst concerns that their closure has caused an increase in fly tipping (see point 4), Defra, last week issued guidance which suggested that HWRCs remain open, where safe to do. This has somewhat ‘clouded’ social distancing advice from the Government relating to our current lockdown situation. A number of Waste Contractors and Local Authorities (Suez, Somerset Waste Partnership) alike have released position statements in relation to this. In the majority of cases (90%, according to the revised ADEPT survey) HWRCs remain closed. The main motivations are associated with Health & Safety concerns and the viewpoint that visiting a HWRC does not constitute ‘essential travel’ or support the government guideline on social distancing. However, conversations are moving on to discuss how and when these facilities might open again. Due to the complex nature of these facilities, it is likely a phased approach will be taken. As an example, and one of the first Councils to reopen their sites, Wigan Council announced they would be opening their HWRCs on Friday, subject to temporary lockdown rules. These rules require residents to adhere to social distancing guidelines, arrive in single occupancy vehicles (no commercial vehicles or trailers), and unload their waste without supervision from staff.

3) Street Cleansing service priorities: The changing priorities and tasks of the street cleansing service and staff vary by Council area, but common practice changes are explored in this short article, including disinfection and the challenge of fly-tipping (below).

4) Fly tipping: Rochdale have said that they have had 231 more fly tipping incidents in March this year, than they did for the same month last year , this represents a 35% increase. The updated Adept survey noted that over half of English Local Authorities have experienced some increase in flytipping but state that flytipping has not been a universal trend or consequence of Covid-19. The Countryside Alliance has reported however that some areas are experiencing a 300% increase in fly tipping, amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

5) Food waste: Some initial estimates from a UK online retailer of surplus food and drink released last week, suggest that there has been an increase of 30% in food waste caused by stockpiling and panic buying. Approved Food states that supermarket sales were up by more than 20% in the four weeks leading up to the lockdown, taking the highest number of sales in March in recorded history. Read the full article on Circular here.

6) WISH guidance update: The WISH forum has released an update to its advice document on managing Covid-19 risks within the waste industry. The second version is available here and provides further advice on hygiene measures such as increased ventilation in cabs, pop-up wash stations, and advising on the use of screens, as has also been seen in shops and supermarkets.

7) Covid-19 & Commercial Contracts: The lockdown impact has undoubtedly caused significant disruption across most business activities and for many has applied pressure on supply chains, as reported in week one of these updates. Freeths, a commercial law firm has produced a concise list of FAQs regarding key areas of customer and supplier contracts that may be effected due to Covid-19, including consideration of force majeure clauses, which protects a business in the instance that an event outside of its control prevents the business from performing its contractual obligations. Some of these aspects and other related clauses may apply within waste contracts.

8) Communications / Home Composting: Local Authorities are working hard to continue providing kerbside collection services to their households (the latest ADEPT survey shows that over 99% of Authorities are continuing to collect residual waste normally or with minimal disruption). In addition, they are also providing support to households relating to services which may have reduced or been withdrawn, such as garden or bulky waste. Examples include in Warwickshire where they have been encouraging householders to home compost green waste and providing free online home composting workshops. Similarly, Somerset Waste Partnership are encouraging households to let their lawn grow or start growing vegetables, adding that this could cut down on shopping for fresh produce. Shropshire Council are providing advice to residents on waste prevention, good food storage practices.

9) Single Use Plastics: As a result of the wider industry challenges from Covid-19, the ban on the implementation of the Single Use Plastics (straws, stirrers and cotton buds) has been delayed by 6 months. In addition, many supermarkets have temporarily waived their carrier bag charges.

10) Planning for post lockdown -pre vaccine: the Government has announced a further 3 weeks of lockdown, however when cases fall and the Government’s criteria are met, the lockdown is likely to be eased / removed and the services will need to prepare for the medium term service provision (both contractually and operationally). This period could last for many months prior to the public being vaccinated against Covid-19, as explored in this short article.

All articles and updates on Covid-19, and other waste / resource management and environmental services issues are included on our website www.frithrm.com

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