How the Covid-19 lockdown has affected waste

Since the UK’s Covid-19 lockdown began, back in March (yes, it was that long ago!), businesses and individuals have all had to adjust to a new ‘normal’, impacting most industries in some way, including the waste industry.
Photo: qimono/PIxabay

At the beginning of the pandemic, regardless of the waste sector receiving key worker status, waste services were disrupted due to social distancing and staff absences. At one point they faced an average 20% reduction in workforce, according to a survey carried out by ADEPT (the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport), published on 3rd April. Despite this, residual and recycling waste collections managed to continue as normal on the most part.

The report, based on responses from 200 local authorities, found garden and food waste were the hardest hit services with more than a third of councils stopping collections altogether. Since the report was published, collection services have thankfully returned to ‘business as usual’ across most of the UK.

90% of Household Waste Recycling Centres closed in the first few weeks of lockdown. Sadly, according to the Countryside Alliance, this disruption led to a 300% increase in reported fly-tipping in rural communities.

Changes in lifestyle still continue to affect the industry however. According to data reported by both Veolia and Suez UK, the amount of waste generated in commercial and industrial workplaces, unsurprisingly, drastically reduced by 50%.

In contrast, with families staying in (larger than normal due to school and university shutdowns) and a large proportion of the population working from home or on furlough, municipal waste has increased by 20%. Recycling reportedly increased by 30% of which Suez UK likened to quantities in post-Christmas peak.

Not only has municipal waste increased in quantity but its composition has also experienced a change, increasing in CV. Where at-home drinking, panic buying of canned-goods and online deliveries are the new norm, household waste now contains more glass, metal cans, cardboard and plastic. Additionally, where people have more time to spend on DIY and home clear-outs, municipal waste is now overflowing with items that, in the past, would have been recycled at the local tip or been donated to charity shops.

With the UK slowly transitioning back to ‘normal’ and businesses changing how they operate to support staff working from home, Andusia foresee this increase in municipal waste continuing at approximately 10% up on the levels pre-Covid-19, for the foreseeable future.

Looking ahead, this could leave local authorities facing large waste bills, a possible (if what small) rise in council taxes and an increasing chance of waste ending up in UK landfill.
But it isn’t all doom and gloom. UK EfW plants have continued to operate as normal during the lockdown. The spare capacity or ‘headroom’ these plants have, that prior to Covid-19 was fulfilled by ad-hoc contracts, is now being taken up by additional local authority municipal waste.

Andusia are pleased to have continued to work closely with UK waste suppliers and EfW plants both in the UK and in Europe throughout the Covid-19 lockdown. Our RDF export levels have remained, managing to also agree some new exciting contracts to be fulfilled in the very near future.

With waste volumes beginning to rise again as a result of slowly expanding economic activity, Andusia are here to help you! We offer a competitive, fully collected service of waste in curtain sliders, containers or walking floors, we work closely with a number of dependable hauliers and fulfil all the required paperwork. If you are a waste producer, we can help you.


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