The impact of the temporary closure of Household Waste and Recycling Centres (HWRCs) during lockdown earlier in the year was huge. Aspects of the waste sector practically came to a standstill and our local environments suffered. So with a UK second-wave lockdown a possibility, might the same happen again, or are we better prepared now?
According to a survey by the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport, more than 90 per cent of HWRCs were closed during the first month of lockdown. For Monks Contractors, this meant that skips weren’t moving and at one point half of our waste transport fleet was parked up. But, as the world slowed down, did the production of household waste slow down? Of course not.
The disappointing result of the temporary closures was a massive rise in fly-tipping, which according to ClearWaste, increased by 76 per cent. The Countryside Alliance has reported that this fly-tipping rise was likely to have been related to an increase in the number of households carrying out DIY jobs.
Not only is fly-tipping bad for our environment, there’s also public health risks to keep in mind due to the potential injury, illness or harm caused by householders storing or dumping bulky or hazardous waste.
However whilst the rise in fly-tipping was sadly to be expected, we must remember that the situation that local authorities were faced with was certainly unprecedented. HWRCs were closed due to concerns about the safety of employees involved in handling and transporting the waste, and general public visiting the centres – which must remain top priority.
Thankfully since then we’ve learnt how to adapt and enable activities to continue safely whilst minimising transmission of the virus. Key players in the waste management sector have supported the gradual opening of many HWRCs by providing specialist advice to councils on how the centres can operate safely. Measures include booking systems, car registration plate schedules, double bagged waste and of course, social distancing.
Recognition of the importance of the centres remaining open, if it’s safe to do so, is also now apparent. The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs has encouraged councils to keep their HWRCs open to ensure bulky waste can continue to be disposed of, but only if social distancing guidelines can be adhered to on site.
So, what can we expect if there’s a second national lockdown? HWRCs in Wales are currently closed as part of the firebreak lockdown. Is this what we can expect if there’s a wider lockdown across the UK?
Hopefully not. Together as a sector we now understand how to keep waste moving safely and we are better placed to help our local authorities avoid the damaging environmental impact of closures.
We’re pleased to say that skips are on the move again and 100 per cent of our fleet are back in action. Waste is no longer on lockdown – let’s work together to keep it that way, safely.