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This publication is available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-advice-to-local-authorities-on-prioritising-waste-collections/managing-household-waste-and-recycling-centres-hwrcs-in-england-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic
Note: Household Waste and Recycling Centres (HWRCs) are referred to as ‘waste or recycling centres’ in the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (Amendment) (No 2) Regulations 2020.
This non-statutory guidance is to help local authorities reopen, or to keep open HWRCs. It sets out what may be considered necessary, as well as measures to support the operation of HWRCs with public health measures.
Kerbside residual and recycling collections remain a high priority and provision of other services should not divert from these. See advice to local authorities on prioritising waste collections.
The key principle of this guidance is that human health must be protected, while maintaining safe systems of working.
1. Opening HWRCs
There is no reason in law why HWRCs cannot be open and where possible, local authorities should seek to retain access to HWRC services for their residents to dispose of waste.
The government is not setting a date by which HWRCs should be open. We recognise that the opening of HWRCs will depend on local circumstances and resource availability. A “one size fits all” approach is not appropriate. The decision to open a HWRC remains with the relevant local authority.
There are also legitimate reasons for some HWRCs to remain closed, safety being paramount including If insufficient staff are available to operate the site safely.
1.1 Rationale for maintaining or re-opening HWRCs
Local authorities are legally obliged to provide places for residents to take their waste by section 51 (1)(b) of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
Businesses processing recycled materials also rely on HWRCs to provide them with the materials they need to make new products, including fuel for biomass power generation. HWRCs, therefore, provide an important contribution to the economy.
The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 provides the legislative framework and is supported by government guidance including that on staying alert and safe and on social distancing. Amendments to these Regulations make clear that it is reasonable for residents to undertake a journey to a HWRC in their area to dispose of their waste.
Some local authorities have been able to offer dedicated collections for materials that might otherwise have been taken to a HWRC. These services are particularly helpful if HWRCs cannot reopen for any reason. They can also help to manage demand on HWRCs that are open.
HWRC sites are varied, in location, layout, size, and demand. It is therefore for local authorities to determine what measures are needed to safely operate a particular site and many will already be considering plans to re-open where practical. Consideration should also be given to any other legal requirements such as the public sector equality duty. Plans to reopen should include discussions with:
local police force (about your arrangements for local or site traffic management)
HWRC contractor and staff and if necessary, provide additional guidance or training for managing sites
your reprocessors/disposers on arrangements to collect and process materials
other relevant local partners and stakeholders who should be engaged
A risk assessment should help inform how and when a HWRC could be opened. This should then inform mitigating actions for both the staff/workforce and visitors/householders.
1.2 Materials accepted
Local authorities should determine what materials and services are provided at their HWRCs. Where possible, the range of materials accepted at HWRCs should remain as close to a normal service provision.
Local authorities should work with their service providers to ensure waste can be stored and removed from sites safely. Where possible continue to sort and segregate waste for offtake.
Local authorities should work with producer compliance schemes (whose statutory obligations remain in place) if they intend to accept waste electrical and electronic equipment
Local authorities should inform residents if it is necessary to limit the materials accepted and provide updates if changes are made in materials accepted.
2. Guidance to help LAs make decisions on opening HWRCs
In order to support and facilitate these local decisions, various types of guidance are available, including but not limited to that listed at the end of this document.
Consideration should be made regarding the health and safety of both the workforce and householders. Since most HWRCs are outdoor environments there is relatively low risk; however, the following should be considered to support safe functioning.
If a member of staff is vulnerable, extremely vulnerable, or living with a person in these categories, then they should be supported as they follow the recommendations set out in guidance on social distancing and shielding respectively.
The advice on social distancing measures applies to everyone and should be followed wherever possible.
Workplaces need to avoid crowding and minimise opportunities for the virus to spread by maintaining a distance of at least 2 metres (3 steps) between individuals wherever possible. This advice applies both to inside any office/break area, and to where staff may need to interact with householders. Staff should be reminded to wash their hands regularly using soap and water for 20 seconds and particularly after blowing their nose, sneezing, or coughing. Where staff use protective gloves to handle waste they should wash their hands after removing gloves and ensure gloves are stored away safely and ideally not taken home. Work clothes or overalls should ideally be stored at work or bagged up before taking home.
Where facilities to wash hands are not available, hand sanitiser should be used. Workers should cover any coughs or sneezes with a tissue, dispose of the tissue in a bin, and immediately wash their hands.
Where social distancing guidelines cannot be followed in full in relation to a particular activity, to manage the HWRC, there should be a consideration as to whether that activity needs to continue for the HWRC to operate. If this activity is required mitigating actions should be taken to reduce the risk of transmission between staff and/or householders. This could include provision of hand sanitiser to supplement hand washing facilities and spacing out of seating area for breaks.
Employees should be reminded to frequently clean and disinfect objects and surfaces that are touched regularly, using standard cleaning products. They should avoid putting their hands to their faces when working.
Employees should socially distance and minimise contact with members of the public. HWRCs should implement social distance measures for members for the public, such as disabling alternate parking bays, introducing markings to enable a 2 metre distance between people or other measures as appropriate for the site.
Employees who are unwell with symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) should not travel to or attend the workplace.
Any member of staff who develops symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) (a new, continuous cough, a high temperature and/or a loss of, or change to, your sense of smell or taste) should be sent home to self-isolate at home for 7-days from the onset of symptoms. If the member of staff lives in a household where someone else is unwell with symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), then they must stay at home in line with the stay at home guidance.
They should also arrange a test to find out if they have coronavirus.
Employees will need your support to adhere to the recommendation to stay at home to reduce the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) to others.
See the employers and business guidance
2.2 The public
Members of the public visiting a HWRC should not include people who are:
extremely vulnerable and are remaining at home for shielding purposes
symptomatic with coronavirus (COVID-19)
in a 14-day household isolation
2.3 Further guidance
Guidance is available, including but not limited to those listed below:
Health & Safety Executive (HSE)
National Association of Waste Disposal Officers (NAWDO)
Waste Industry Safety and Health Forum (WISH)
Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP)
Other useful sources
You should also refer to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 as amended
3. Annex - Communications to residents
Communications and messaging to residents are particularly important. Local authorities will each have their own communication channels, styles and preferences. The suggestions below could, however, be used as a starting point to develop local communication strategies. Local authorities should make sure that their websites, social media channels and texts/apps to residents have up to date information on HWRCS, including:
materials currently being accepted for disposal or recycling
explanation on how social distancing will be managed at HWRCs (such as only using alternate parking spaces and 2 metre markings on walkways)
Local authorities could consider putting notices in local newspapers and other relevant publications.
Posters and signage at HWRCs should be up to date with the latest government advice on social distancing. These could state that visitors will be asked to leave, or the HWRC will close if social distancing is not observed.
3.1 Suggested messages to include in communications to residents
The messages below could be shared with residents. These messages are not exhaustive and should be adapted to meet local circumstances and available services:
Please check whether council collections of garden, bulky, or other wastes are available before travelling to a HWRC. If available, you could make use of council collection services rather than travelling to a HWRC.
Do not assume that all HWRCs are open. Please check the council’s website before setting out to a HWRC. You should also check which materials the HWRC that you plan to visit is accepting. Not all HWRCs are accepting all the materials that they would have previously accepted.
Please be patient. Remember that going to HWRCs will be different to what it was before lockdown, and that it will be a while before social distancing restrictions are lifted. You may have to queue before you are allowed entry into a HWRC. This is because there will be limits on the numbers of people that can be in the HWRC at any one time. Also remember that there are limited parking spaces at most HWRCs.
You should not visit the HWRC if you are unwell, as you should be following the 7-day self-isolation guidance, or if a member of your household is unwell and you should be following the 14 day stay at home guidance.
Visitors to HWRCs must always observe social distancing. If you do not comply with social distancing guidance, you will be asked to leave the HWRC and the site may have to close temporarily.
HWRC staff will not be able to assist with carrying items.
If you do travel to a HWRC, please remember to stay in your vehicle while queuing to aid with social distancing. Please do not leave your vehicle until it is necessary to get out.
Before you travel to a HWRC you should think about the following:
storing items at home.
making use of retailer take-back services or making your old items available for immediate re-use via on-line platforms. Make sure you follow social distancing and related guidance and that it is safe for you to move the items in question.
checking the Reuse Network website to see if there are options available for small businesses or charities in your area to mend or repurpose your furniture and appliances. This may also be a good opportunity to repair, repurpose or re-use items such as old furniture or clothes yourself which you would usually throw away.
alternatively, you could use a private registered waste collection company, although there will be a cost if you do this. Remember, you have a duty to make sure you know where your waste is going and to ensure that the person collecting your waste is registered. You can do this by checking the Environment Agency’s website.
Disposing of waste in the wrong way damages the environment and can be illegal:
Please do not put things in your rubbish bin that you would normally recycle or take to the tip. Most household collection services are continuing as normal, so there is no reason to put things in your rubbish bin that you would normally put in the recycle bin. If there is currently no service in your area to recycle electrical appliances and garden waste, please hold on to them until services resume. You can check your council website for updates.
You must not dispose of household waste in a way that could harm people’s health. This includes burning it - burning household waste is an offence, liable to prosecution. Please make sure that you make full use of your local authority’s waste collection services and follow local advice.
Don’t fly-tip or dump waste it’s a crime. Leaving items on the street or in parks, woodlands and fields is fly-tipping. This is a crime, and local authorities and the Environment Agency have a range of powers to tackle it including fixed penalties of up to £400, or prosecution. Even if you mean well, leaving items outside charity shops, or next to full recycling bins, is still fly-tipping. You can report fly-tipping to your local authority via www.gov.uk/report-flytipping and find out more information at www.tacklingflytipping.com/
On your return from the HWRC please remember not to touch your face and to wash your hands for 20 seconds on arrival at your destination.
Head to the Recycle Now website for more information on recycling during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.