FRM Covid 19 weekly update no. 7

This is the seventh 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) Textiles – The situation for textiles continues to be under serious strain, the textiles industry, has been one of the hardest hit sector during Coivd-19. Many of the UKs overseas markets have closed during Covid-19. In a recent report from the Textiles Recycling Association, the Director of the Association has warned that Local Authorities and charities may not get any income at all for textiles, and that it may transpire that a gate fee is introduced. Textiles have typically provided a good income £/tonne in recent years, and Lets Recycle prices has been seeing prices of c.£370/t for shop collected textiles as recent as March this year. Prices for textiles banks has plummeted from c. £130 to £30/tonne between March and April.

2) Opportunities for Reuse? – A free webinar held last week (by CIWM and Suez) addressed the topic of reuse, and its role in reducing waste. Within the discussion, it was asked whether Covid-19 poses a risk that single use plastic consumption would rise. In a time where cleanliness is top priority, there is often a perception that unpackaged items aren’t as clean, people can be put off purchasing ‘loose’ items. However, evidence shows that we are seeing a shift in consumer/purchasing behaviour and it was argued that Covid-19 might present an opportunity for reuse business models, or to change consumer purchasing behaviour. i.e. home delivery is up (increase of nearly 30/40%), so should more businesses be looking at returnable packaging solutions (there are good small-scale examples already happening)?

3) ADEPT survey – The latest report from ADEPT has been released. Related to point no. 4, a new question this week asked LAs if they have plans to reopen HWRCs, 84% of respondents of which were planning to. 11% of respondents were considering this within in a week, whereas 37% and 46% were planning to reopen in two and four weeks, respectively. 75% of MRFs are reported to be operating as normal.

4) Guidance on opening HWRCs – An increasing number of Local Authorities are reopening their HWRCs (e.g. Shropshire), with many more (e.g. Kirklees and Cheshire East) set to follow suit this week. This follows on from Defra’s latest guidance on safely re-opening HWRCs which was published last Monday. The full guidance can be found here.

5) Northumberland HWRC example - Northumberland CC, HWRCs operated by Suez, has opened its 12 HWRCs. Their preferred method for maintaining social distancing is through controlled traffic management. Motivations for opening for Northumberland included reducing pressure on kerbside collection services and reduce the number of fly-tipping incidents. It was noted that whilst fly tipping hasn’t been a huge concern, there had been increasing numbers week on week as the lockdown continues. Since opening, NCC has reported that although there had been some initial flurry of visits, the reopening of their facilities has been successful. Strict traffic management and consistent communication with residents has been noted as the key enabling factors. Their communications video can be viewed here: https://www.northumberland.gov.uk/Waste/Tip.aspx

6) Public Use of Private Facilities – Grundon’s recently opened one of their MRFs (in Reading) for deposit of waste by the public, in lieu of HWRC capacity, for a small charge (£30, £5 of which is for the NHS), details here.

7) WISH Information update – The Waste Industry Safety and Health Forum (WISH) have released their latest version of their ‘Covid-19 and Waste Management Activities’ report. Changes from the last report includes advice on home-laundering of workwear, testing for essential workers and first aid provision. It also includes information on the recommencement of services involving going onto third party sites, including commercial waste collections at client sites, and further guidance on reopening HWRC/CA sites, relating to point no. 4.

8) Testing – Waste contractors are encouraging staff to get tested as part of the wider national scheme to roll out testing amongst essential workers. According to information from Defra, at the time of writing, approximately 75% of tests are coming back negative and thereby helping staff to return to work. Rugby Council for example have been using local testing centres for their workers to get tested, which has a good level of participation from employees.

9) Update from the Prime Minister – Last night (10th May), Boris Johnson, provided the public with a ‘conditional plan’ to reopen society through a science-based step change approach. From Wednesday, people in England will be able to spend more time outdoors and are being ‘actively encouraged to go to work’, however further guidance is expected to follow today (Monday). Direct implications for the waste industry are unclear, however, there will be repercussions and changes that the industry will have to be adaptive to. For example, there are suggestions that we will see hikes in food delivery and takeaway services. And as more people will be allowed to drive to parks and beaches, or workers return to offices Local Authorities may be required to review their street cleansing services where they have been adapted to focus on kerbside services and we may see a resurgence of commercial waste collections.

10) Scottish Government; framework for decision making consultation. Last month, the Scottish Government published the Coronavirus (Covid-19) – Framework for Decision Making as a way to inform Scottish residents on the principles and approach to tackling the coronavirus pandemic. The report provides information on staying at home, businesses that are subject to restrictions or closures and allowing pupils to return to school. To remain current, and relative, this report is due to be reviewed every 3 weeks. Today (11th May) marks the last day of public consultation, before the report is reviewed and reissued. The full report can be accessed here. To have your say, feedback can be provided here.

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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