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Food waste collections ‘high priority’ during pandemic, says DEFRA

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The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has provided recommendations for prioritising waste collection services, listing food waste as a high priority.

According to DEFRA, it is 'non-statutory guidance' to help local authorities to maintain services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On food waste, the government body said that where food waste is collected weekly, services should be maintained 'so far as possible' so that putrescible waste is removed frequently. The guidance states: "For mixed food and garden waste collections, these would need to continue as for food waste to prevent food and garden waste build-up.

"As a last resort, it may be necessary to stop food waste collections temporarily and ask residents to put food waste in the same container as their residual waste and not to collect garden waste."

DEFRA highlighted that there is a potential bioaerosol risk if food waste is left for several weeks and that where food waste collection is stopped, it may impact anaerobic digestion (AD) processes and in turn, energy production.

To prevent this from happening, DEFRA is suggesting that councils reallocate staff from other collections to assist with food waste collections, if possible, and provide clear communication on service changes. The UK Government body stated that it is easier to maintain organics collections than other services due to the crew numbers per vehicle being lower and that temporary stoppage of collections may make it more difficult to get householders 'back on board' when restarted.

The guidance also suggested that residual 'black bag' waste is a high priority, with weekly dry recyclables, garden waste and bulky items all being classed as 'low' priority.