Managing your waste during the COVID-19 pandemic

Alex Wild 2016

Alex Wild
Senior Consultant, Assurity Consulting
29th May 2020

Many local authorities had had to close these facilities temporarily over concerns that social distancing is not possible. The importance of reducing the spread of Covid-19 being paramount importance in order to protect lives and closing waste facilities is not something that we would criticise councils for doing. Minimising the trips people made from their home is an important means of reducing the spread of the virus.

The issue these closures posed, however, was the knock-on effect of fly tipping which has been reported in local press as being on the increase in several regions around the country. Reports in The Daily Telegraph suggested the rise could have been as much as 80% in some areas. This could possibly be due to individuals fly tipping their own waste but there have also been reports of ‘scam’ companies offering waste disposal services, only to dump the waste in nearby countryside.

During the current lockdown period, many people took the opportunity to get on to long put off DIY projects as a good way of keeping busy, something which is important for our mental wellbeing. Many local authorities however, as well as closing waste facilities, also suspended bulk waste removal services, increasing the likelihood of residents choosing to find alternative means of disposing bulk household waste.

Fly tipping puts council workers who have to clear up the dumped waste at increased risk of exposure to the Coronavirus with there being no way of knowing where the waste came from and who may have been in contact with it. It’s also a major blight on our environment, with people being discouraged from visiting the countryside, leaving fly tippers less likely to be disturbed in the act.

This increased fly tipping also raises is the issue of hazardous waste, particularly asbestos. Disposal of asbestos waste can be costly and requires the materials that contain asbestos to be carefully double bagged and picked up by a licenced waste disposal firm, who will provide a waste consignment notice. Fly tipped materials are unlikely to be so carefully packed or controlled ahead of being dumped. This puts members of the public who come across the waste as well as council workers at significant risk of being exposed to asbestos fibres. Other hazardous waste will include chemicals which if not in a suitable container, could leak into the natural environment and cause harm to wildlife.

It is important, during these difficult times, that we support our local authority workers who are continuing to put themselves on the front line to maintain essential services such as household waste collections, therefore if you have waste to dispose of - over and above what would go through the normal waste collection - it is imperative that a reputable firm is sought to provide this service. If you have any doubts that a supplier is less than reputable, it may be worth waiting until the lockdown conditions are lifted to dispose of this waste.