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CIWM says there is “weak” rationale for keeping HWRCs open during pandemic

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The Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) has said there is a "weak" rationale for keeping UK council household and waste recycling centres (HWRCs) open during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The CIWM supported a statement made by the Waste Industry Safety and Health (WISH) forum that "As CA/HWRC  sites are places where members of the public may meet in numbers, local authorities can be encouraged to consider closing the sites until social distancing is relaxed. If there is necessity and it is essential for CA/HWRC sites to remain open..." but added that "the rationale for keeping HWRCs open to the public while strict social distancing measures are in place, except in exceptional circumstances, is weak for a number of reasons".

The reasons cited by HWRC include:

  1. It "effectively contravenes" the UK Government's instruction that citizens should only leave home for essential tasks: shopping for necessities; one form of exercise per day; any medical need to provide care/help a vulnerable person; travelling for essential work purposes.

  2. Most HWRCs are not set up in such a way that social distancing can be effectively maintained, putting workers and members of the public at risk. The CIWM suggests that alternative approaches such as restricting traffic flow to the site to enable social distancing may have impacts "beyond the site", including "unacceptable and potentially unsafe" levels of congestion on access roads.

  3. Evidence from CIWM members before the widespread closure of HWRCs highlighted examples of "unacceptable public behaviour", which put workers at risk.


The CIWM added: "HWRCs do provide valuable services, however, and their closure increases pressure on kerbside collections and recycling disposal routes for some businesses.

"CIWM is, therefore, prepared to work with WISH, industry stakeholders and UK Governments as appropriate to develop a protocol to determine if and when strategic HWRC sites could be opened and to establish guidelines to ensure they can be operated safely according to social distancing requirements."