Industry resists pressure to reopen HWRCs

Written by: Maddie Ballard | Published:
Defra has urged local authorities to reopen HWRCs in the face of skyrocketing fly-tipping

A poll by Suez has revealed that no local authority representatives (0%) consider a trip to a household waste and recycling centre (HWRC) “essential” under current regulations, despite pressure from Defra to reopen HWRCs.

The majority of HWRCs, which allow members of the public to dispose of bulky waste, have been closed during the coronavirus pandemic to support social distancing and reduced staffing.

Their closure was prompted by Defra’s guidelines on prioritising waste collections.

However, Defra has urged local authorities to reopen HWRCs in the face of skyrocketing fly-tipping rates across the country.

Last week, the government department said that although collecting black bag waste was the top priority, “we are also encouraging councils to keep their HWRCs open to ensure that bulky waste can continue to be disposed of, but only if social distancing guidelines can be adhered to on site”.

Suez’s poll, which surveyed 128 local authority representatives on 16 April, found that 97% of respondents did not feel confident in “managing demand to maintain social distancing and avoid congestion” if they were to reopen an HWRC.

Most respondents (90%) also said a trip to an HWRC could be considered as accessing a critical public service only “if food and general waste can’t be collected from households”.

Almost three quarters (72%) of respondents thought it would take more than a week to “remobilise one or more HWRCs”.

John Scanlon, chief executive at Suez, said: “We and others in our sector are working alongside local authorities to keep household waste and recycling collections going through the pandemic.

“With these essential public cleansing services continuing, there isn’t a need for a whole scale reopening of HWRCs and this current scenario is helping our key worker refuse staff to stay focused on doing their job so the NHS, and other frontline services can stay working to keep us all safe.

“If there is a need to re-open a limited number of strategically located HWRCs in order to ease any pressures on household collection services, we will ensure those facilities operate in line with Public Health England guidelines, which will mean limiting the number of vehicles and people who can attend at any one time, restricting their capacity by at least 50% to maintain social distancing.

“If any do re-open, we urge the public that a trip to their local recycling centre under a restricted service should remain something that must be only strictly necessary and cannot be used as diversionary trip or because people feel unable to responsibly store toys, clothes or electrical goods that they have decided to throw-away as part of a lockdown induced spring-clean at home.

“Non-essential clear-outs and associated trips to the HWRC must remain just that for now and be avoided.”

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