Waste and recycling during the coronavirus pandemic: your questions answered

Bridgend County Borough Council has received a large number of comments and queries about recycling and waste during the ongoing Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. Here, Cllr Richard Young, Cabinet Member for Communities, answers some of the most frequently asked questions.


Q: Why is the council not increasing the fortnightly two-bag waste limit when more waste is being generated due to people spending more time at home because of the lockdown?


Cllr Young: First of all, the vast amount of additional waste which is being put out as refuse is mostly made up of items that are recyclable. With no limits on the amount of recycling that can be put out, the majority of households should have no problems as long as they maximise their recycling as there will be very little left to actually go into the refuse bag.


The second thing that should be realised is that Kier are currently operating with up to 25 per cent of their normal work-force, and many of their staff are self-isolating due to the pandemic. This means that if more bags are placed out for collection, it will take longer to collect them, and daily rounds may not be finished.


The best way of ensuring that collections can continue as normal throughout the pandemic is to ask householders to maximise the amount of waste they recycle, and keep to the two-bag limit. This will mean that no one has to miss out, and rounds can be both managed safely and completed in time despite the very challenging circumstances.


We will continue to review the situation as time goes on, but in general we have received very positive comments about the job the crews have been doing. They are part of the ‘unsung heroes’ of this crisis, and we thank residents for appreciating their work at this challenging time.


Q: Is the two-bag waste restriction leading to increased fly-tipping?


Cllr Young: Despite the pandemic, we are continuing to provide a bulky waste collection service, and with households able to put out as much recycling as necessary, there is no reason for anyone to fly-tip waste. This is especially irresponsible during a national emergency, and while we have seen an increase in reported fly-tipping, we are clearing it as quickly as possible under the circumstances.


Everybody needs to do ‘their bit’ during the pandemic, and until thing scan return to normal, we have appealed to householders to store any waste that cannot be recycled or put out for collection until such time as the community recycling centres reopen.


We are aware there are a large number of businesses offering ‘waste collection’ services during the pandemic, and while some have waste licences in place, many do not. The Shared Regulatory Service is carrying out checks, and the council will always take enforcement action against anyone found flytipping.


Q: Why won’t you reopen the Community Recycling Centres?


Cllr Young: This is largely because the staff at each site have been redeployed to ensure that daily recycling and refuse collections can continue to operate, but UK and Welsh Governments have both repeatedly stated that only essential travel should be taking place, and that social distancing measures should be maintained.


It is impossible to ensure this at community recycling centres, and ‘trips to the tip’ do not constitute essential travel. The situation is being monitored very closely, and we will be seeking to reopen the sites as soon as it is safe to do so.


Q: Why was the garden waste collection service stopped?


Cllr Young: The only reason this stopped was because the contractor who composted the garden waste stopped providing a service due to the effects of the pandemic.


All customers of the service are being fully reimbursed while we seek an alternative provider. If this can be established quickly, we hope to be able to restart the service in the next few weeks – look out for more news on this.


  1. Why are two or three Kier staff still seen together in each refuse vehicle despite the government’s regulations about work-place distancing?


Cllr Young: The Government regulations are being observed – it is important to remember that they contain some exceptions based on whether they are reasonable. For example, Kier would not be expected to hire or purchase additional fleet vehicles or fleet in order to reduce the number of staff in each cab.


But they are expected to implement other measures to mitigate any risks, and they have shared their guidelines with us which demonstrate that they have issued appropriate personal protective equipment, have implemented sanitation measures, and have adjusted work practices accordingly.


  1. Are the council’s litter-pickers still working as normal?


Cllr Young: Yes, we are continuing to deploy its litter pickers in priority areas. You’d expect litter bins to be empty during the lockdown, but we are finding that people are using them to dispose of food and other household waste – all of which is unnecessary, households can put out as much recycling as they want. So our staff are emptying them to prevent further problems, such as vermin.


Could they be better used elsewhere? Yes, they probably could. Some staff have been trained so they can assist with waste collections, for example, and if people use the recycling system properly and stop the bins from filling up, we could look at other areas where they might be able to offer support.


  1. What else can residents to do help at this time?


Cllr Young: If people are self-isolating, double-bag your rubbish to help prevent exposure. If there is a known virus infection in your household, please wait a minimum of 72 hours before presenting your waste for collection. To help refuse lorries and other vehicles complete their rounds, please park considerately and leave enough space for them to get through.


You can help keep our refuse collectors safe by sticking to social distancing guidelines. Use the bulk waste collection service, or store items at home until the community recycling centres reopen.


With charity shops closed and clothing banks not being emptied, please hold on to any donations of clothes until they can be accepted once more. Our staff are trying to clear away any bags dumped at these locations, but it is still classed as fly-tipping and is actually a criminal offence.