Waste and recycling collections during the COVID-19 crisis
Last reviewed: 13 January 2021
Local authorities across the UK are working hard to provide the best possible service during the COVID-19 crisis. Waste and recycling crews are designated key workers, and they are doing a fantastic job.
As most of us are now staying at home, more household waste will put pressure on recycling and waste services.
Staff shortages may mean changes to services like garden waste collections and removal of bulky items like mattresses, white goods or furniture. However many local Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) are now open, with restrictions in place.
The situation is still challenging and can change quickly. It’s up to us all to help.
We can do this by:
- Checking our local council’s website regularly for updates on types and frequencies of recycling and waste collections where we live – including what can and can’t be recycled.
- Parking responsibly, so that recycling and waste collection vehicles and workers have access;
- We should only take waste to an HWRC if it cannot be stored safely at home. If necessary, we should check to see if our local HWRC is open, accepting all the materials it usually accepts, or whether alternative services are available, before making an unnecessary journey. Social distancing must be observed at HWRCs, so services may be reduced, there may be queues and we may have to book a slot;
- Not leaving items on charity shop doorsteps – find out if and how they are accepting donations before taking items;
- Continuing to recycle - learn what you can and can’t recycle here: https://www.recyclenow.com/local-recycling
- Re-using or finding another use for things we might otherwise throw away – for instance, using plastic tubs with lids to store leftovers in the freezer, or cutting up old sheets and towels to use as dusters and cleaning cloths;
- Minimising the amount of rubbish, recycling and food waste we produce. Every bit we can reduce will make a real difference to maintaining a good service for everyone. Find tips for reducing food waste on lovefoodhatewaste.com. We can also use food and garden waste for composting;
- If self-isolating and feeling ill, putting any potentially infected items like used tissues or cleaning cloths into separate plastic bags and double bagging them. These bags should then be put aside for at least 72 hours (3 days) before they go into the external bin. For more information, see the Public Health England website: gov.uk/phe;
- If we wear a cloth face covering in public, we should wash it after every use in line with the manufacturer’s instructions. If it’s not washable, is worn out or disposable, we should put it in our usual ‘black bag’ residual waste bin. We must not put used face coverings of any kind or Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as gloves, into the recycling bin. Nor must we drop them as litter – it’s a criminal offence. Visit our What To Do With Face Coverings page to find out more;
- Avoiding doing big clear-outs while at home, which will create more rubbish and recycling for council crews to collect. We need to hold onto large items such as furniture, mattresses etc. until the outbreak has subsided and services return to normal;
- If clearing out goods is unavoidable, we should consider making use of retailer take-back services or making our old items available for immediate re-use via on-line platforms such as Freecycle or Gumtree. We must make sure we take full account of social distancing and related guidance and that it is safe to move the items in question;
- Not burning waste at home. This creates air pollution that could harm people nearby who may already have breathing difficulties due to COVID-19. There is also the danger that fires could get out of control; fire services around the country are reporting an increase in callouts due to garden fires;
- Continuing to wash our hands regularly, maintaining good hygiene when handling our rubbish and recycling and keeping our distance when collection workers are doing their collections where we live.
When putting out bins we should:
- Put bins out the evening before a collection is scheduled;
- Clean bin handles with disinfectant before and after collection;
- Put used disposable gloves, aprons, masks and other PPE into our non-recyclable waste bin or bag, along with any wipes, cloths, gloves, etc. used for cleaning our bags, bins, boxes and caddies, as these can’t be recycled and could be contaminated.
If your council can’t collect your recycling:
- We need to store recyclable items safely until they can be collected. Paper and card must be kept dry and away from heaters, ovens and naked flames so that it does not catch fire. Fold paper, flatten boxes and crush plastic bottles and other containers so that they take up less room.
Our local authorities’ ability to maintain their usual collections may change throughout the COVID-19 crisis. We need to keep checking our council website to find out what will be collected and continue to recycle in the meantime.