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HWRC operators must create action plans for reopening, says WRA

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Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) should create action plans for the re-opening of facilities following the COVID-19 lockdown, according to the Wood Recyclers' Association (WRA).

The WRA welcomed the latest guidance from the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) regarding the re-opening of HWRCs, but has called on operators to explain how this can be 'safely and practicably' achieved.

Calls for clear guidance on reopening recycling centres follows a survey of WRA members in which the organisation found that wood recyclers have seen an 80% drop in feedstock supply since the UK lockdown commenced, causing 'significant financial stress' on all parts of the supply chain, including biomass plants.

"The reopening of HWRCs is not something that can happen overnight for many valid reasons," said Andy Hill, chairman of the WRA. "However, we need to begin to plan an exit strategy to allow us to move out of this period as smoothly and effectively as possible when the time is right.

"To help with that, we are asking the HWRCs and local authorities to provide an indication of timescales for the re-opening of HWRCs in a safe and timely manner. We are also going to be asking DEFRA to give HWRCs a high priority in its exit strategy, and to carefully consider the flow of waste wood so that we can get the sector back up and running again as soon as possible after the lockdown."

The waste wood market has been greatly affected by the closure of HWRCs, according to the WRA, with all panel board manufacturers temporarily shut down, biomass plant operators considering temporary closures and an average of 50-60% of wood recycling staff being furloughed.

The WRA is also asking, where some HWRC sites have remained open during the lockdown, best practice from these sites is shared with other operators to enable the smooth reopening of facilities. Hill added: "Although over 90% of HWRCs have been closed, we know there are still some counties operating them. It would be good to understand how they are managing and what planning they have put in place to enable them to remain open."