Defra issues guide to reopening HWRCs

Written by: Madeleine Ballard | Published:
The majority of HWRCs closed in early April in response to Defra guidelines on prioritising waste collections at the time

​Defra has published new guidance on how local authorities can safely reopen household waste and recycling centres (HWRCs) during the coronavirus pandemic.

The guide, which was published yesterday (5 May), encourages councils to reopen HWRCs to help tackle the build-up of waste in homes and businesses and reduce fly-tipping.

However, Defra has stressed the importance of maintaining social distancing to protect council staff and the public.

The guidelines emphasise that householders should only take their waste to an HWRC if it poses a risk of injury to themselves or a risk to public health or the local environment if stored at home.

Defra sets out how local authorities can manage access and maintain social distancing onsite, such as by disabling alternate parking bays or using markings to keep a two-metre distance between people.

It also provides guidelines on how to communicate with local residents about reopenings.

Rebecca Pow, environment minister, said: “Maintaining crucial waste services while protecting public health remains a top priority during these unprecedented times, and I commend our councils on the superbly efficient job they are doing in keeping waste collection services running.

“We are publishing this guidance to help local authorities reopen their recycling centres over the coming days and weeks.

“This will ensure that more waste can be properly disposed of and we avoid the likelihood of fly-tipping.”

The majority of HWRCs closed in early April in response to Defra’s guidelines on prioritising waste collections.

Defra now generally advises councils to reopen HWRCs, but suggests that councils must independently assess which centres can be reopened, depending on how much capacity they have and how practical social distancing is at a particular site.

Householders should check whether their local site is open with their council.

The guidelines have been welcomed by the industry, despite earlier reluctance to open HWRCs.

Richard Kirkman, head of COVID-19 response and chief technology and innovation officer at Veolia, said: “We welcome Defra's guidance regarding the safe opening of HWRCs based on clear guidelines and clear communications, as ensuring the safety of our dedicated waste teams and the public is essential, especially during these unprecedented times.

“By reopening these facilities we can ensure local authorities can maintain the vital recycling and waste management infrastructure in their local areas, provide an essential service and reduce the environmental damage caused by fly tipping."


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