Lockdown leaves UK waste collectors feeling the pinch

3rd June 2020 | Recycling

To understand what lockdown life has meant for the UK economy, consider looking inside a rubbish bin. Stockpiling at the beginning of the lockdown led to a 70 per cent surge in cans and tins in mid-April, according to data collected by Suze, the waste management company. The measures have also resulted in an increase in glass waste produced by households as more beer and wine is consumed at home, and a sharp decline in used office photocopy paper because of closed offices.

“The binmen truly are the barometer of the economy,” said John Scanlon, chief executive of Suez UK, which handles about a fifth of all the UK’s waste. The volume of waste produced in the UK has plummeted during the coronavirus lockdown – a trend that may have environmental benefits, but is devastating for many waste collection businesses.

Waste collectors

Although households have been producing about 20 per cent more rubbish than usual over the period because people are at home, the level of commercial waste has dropped by around 50 per cent because of closed businesses, said Mr Scanlon, echoing similar figures from other companies. “Depending on our volumes, we can very quickly have a view on what is going on with the economy,” he said, adding that there has not yet been a jump in waste collection that would point to a quick recovery. As consumer confidence changes, people decide to spend or not spend, and that has an impact on what ends up in the back of your trucks every week,” he said.

The contents of the average household recycling bin have changed greatly during lockdown, according to recycling companies and waste collectors. According to some, recycling has become tidier and less contaminated, while others have noticed a trend of people cleaning out their houses and throwing out more rubbish as a result.

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