Rick Hindley, executive director at Alupro, explores the impact of COVID-19 on kerbside recycling collections and discusses the importance of maintaining high reprocessing rates to create essential packaging materials.
Last week (14 April), the Association of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT) published data investigating the impact of Covid-19 on local authority waste and recycling services. The findings, which prove hugely insightful reading, report that more than 90% of councils are continuing to run dry recycling collections as normal (or with only minor disruptions) – despite national staff absence rates of c.20%.
This insight not only demonstrates resilience from across the industry, but also national perseverance in the face of adversity. By continuing to provide kerbside collections, local authorities are providing an invaluable service that keeps resources away from landfill and retains them within the value chain. Recycling is providing an important response to the hugely challenging scenario we all currently face.
Take aluminium, for example. With inherently circular properties, aluminium can be collected, recycled and very quickly returned to a packaging system critical in the provision of food, drink and even essential medical supplies. The average beverage can has a cycle of just 60 days, meaning it can be reprocessed and returned to the supermarket shelf in less than eight weeks. This emphasises the vital importance of maintaining kerbside collections and continuing to provide UK reprocessors with vital secondary raw materials.
Andy Doran, Senior Manager (Sustainability & Recycling Development) at Alupro member Novelis UK, commented: “As our automaker customers are severely impacted, we have temporarily stopped our assets serving that sector. On the other hand, our Warrington plant will continue to serve the beverage can market, which remains very much business as usual in the current climate.”
Maintaining a continuous flow of aluminium packaging is therefore essential to keep the cycle moving. As such, it’s positive to see that only 1% of MRFs nationwide are temporarily closed, with close to 95% operating either as normal or with only minor disruptions.
With social distancing and safe working practices paramount to maximising the wellbeing of staff and keeping facilities open, we advocate adherence to the recently-published safety guidance advice from the Waste Industry Safety and Health Forum (WISH). Compiled with insight from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Public Health England (PHE), the document details best practice for waste management facilities nationwide.
By adhering to this advice, transfer stations and MRFs will be able to continue supporting reprocessors nationwide in maintaining valuable services through a hugely challenging global period.
At Alupro, we commend the waste industry’s frontline workers, who are providing an essential service in very challenging circumstances. By providing collections for local residents, they are helping to supply raw materials critical for manufacturing essential food packaging and medical supplies.