FRM Covid 19 weekly update no. 1

Ten observations of impacts on projects & clients in the waste sector

This is a weekly update of impacts we have observed, 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) Household Waste Recycling Centres – in general these are closing or have already closed. The rationale is threefold: they present a communal risk of contact and therefore disease spread; staffing is under pressure in terms of availability but also safeguarding of workers, and; the ‘lockdown’ of householders means they should not be taking non essential trips.

2) Government advice to householders on disposal of potentially infected waste - this requires double bagging and leaving for 72 hours in an area not accessible by animals for a period of 72 hours before being put out for collection – this helps safeguard collection crew – an essential service under the Government strategy.

3) Live Resource on Health & Safety Issues – The Waste Industry Safety & Health (WISH) group have published useful H&S guidance across the industry (from collection through to disposal) in a format that is updated on a regular basis, here.

4) Impact on arisings (commercial) – the unprecedented move to working from home will have substantial impacts on commercial waste arising, from closure of industrial sites to office and other workers working from home. Commercial waste tonnages are falling dramatically and there is some transfer into the domestic stream.

5) Impact on arisings (household) – it is early to say, but in addition to the above we are hearing about increased food waste (through more meals being taken at home), and there are likely to be other effects such as more packaging, through householders buying less fresh food and stocking up for longer term cooking. Any changes may have implications for treatment / recycling / disposal capacity.

6) Rerouting is already being undertaken – the increased domestic demand is requiring consideration of whether there is capacity in the current collections to manage the amount of household (and commercial) waste arising on the domestic rounds. Spare capacity on commercial rounds may be reallocated. Rerouting and rebalancing of rounds may be required.

7) Preferential collection services – we have not seen kerbside recycling or garden waste services impacted from householders in most contexts yet, but this could remain a factor of logistics and available staffing. Advice in Wales is not to put tissues in the recycling.

8) Contractual issues – Covid 19 is having a substantial impact on the normal functioning operations, we are hearing of contractual negotiations / discussions regarding Force Majeure clauses [these reflect an extreme circumstance that prevent delivery of normal contractual operations] – on the grounds of Biohazard, it is unclear at present how this will be reflected in law.

9) Revenue issues – in addition to the operational issues, some of which are highlighted above, there will be revenue issues associated with, for example closing of HWRCs, such as a loss of recyclate revenue for contractors / councils. These could be the subject of contract negotiations or budget impacts for Councils directly.

10) Procurement activity – the impact we see directly is the delay in certain projects as a result of abnormal working conditions, this has meant a delay in procurement activity, or elongated response times for those parties within procurement processes. The impacts of this will vary on a case by case basis, but could create contractual / legal issues in the medium term for example if services are not re-procured when contracts end.