Councils burn recycling amid virus-linked rise in waste and staff absence

21st April 2020 | Recycling

Councils are burning household recycling after being hit by a massive surge in domestic waste and coronavirus-related staff absences during the pandemic, the Guardian has learned. Councils in Cardiff, St Helens, and Inverclyde confirmed they were temporarily incinerating recycling, while those in Oldham, Redbridge and West Dunbartonshire also said they had stepped down their recycling services for the time being. Aa further six authorities have stopped collecting glass or cardboard.

Cardiff city council said it was continuing to collect recycled material as usual and was asking residents to rinse out their recycling and sort items in the correct bags even through the materials would be incinerated for the near future. “Strange as it seems, we still need you to put recyclables into your green recycling bags so that we can return to recycling the waste when we are able,” the council said in a statement.

Burn recycling

The coronavirus lockdown has generated a massive increase in domestic waste collection UK-wide, with nearly a third of authorities reporting an increase of between 20% and 50% on normal volumes of waste collected through household bins. Nearly one in 10 reported waste increases of up to twice as much as usual.

The pressure on local waste disposal services has been underlined by data showing that huge areas of the country have suspended bulky waste collection (55% of councils), garden waste disposal (29%) and food waste (10%) to cope with the crisis. A survey of UK councils carried out by the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (Adept) found that a quarter of local waste teams reported losing up to 40% of staff through illness or self-isolation last week.

The charity Keep Britain Tidy has warned that some councils are struggling to keep on top of fly-tipping, suggesting that it might be linked to an increase in DIY and decluttering as people stay at home, as well as the widespread closure of household recycling centres under physical distancing rules.

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