Third of councils axe garden waste collections due to Covid-19 staff shortage

David Child
A garden waste basket in a back garden. More than a third of English councils have suspended collections of garden waste as they struggle to pick up rubbish amid staff shortages (PA Media): PA Media

More than a third of English councils have suspended collections of garden waste as they struggle to pick up rubbish amid staff shortages brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

At least 125 local authorities have temporarily halted the service in the face of the coronavirus outbreak or delayed its reintroduction for the summer months.

Councils suspending their garden waste collection, which is not a statutory service, include more than 70 authorities who charge fees for picking up material such as plant prunings and grass clippings from householders.

Many of these authorities say they will extend existing subscriptions so gardeners do not lose out.

Dozens more have closed schemes to new subscribers or are warning there may be disruption to the service as they protect staff and cope with them falling sick or self-isolating.

A small number of the local authorities who have suspended their green waste service collect bins with garden and food mixed together, and they are telling households to instead put kitchen scraps in the rubbish bin.

Garden waste collections have been suspended or are not restarting as planned in cities such as Leeds, Bristol and Plymouth, across counties including Dorset, and in seven London boroughs.

Householders are being urged to try and limit the waste they generate from extra gardening, DIY or spring cleaning clear-outs as councils deal with increased levels of domestic rubbish from families locked down at home.

Many councils have suspended bulky waste collections and some have told residents they are having to suspend other recycling collections such as paper or glass as they prioritise picking up black bin refuse.

David Renard, environment spokesman for the Local Government Association, told the Press Association: "As coronavirus impacts on the safety of their workforce handling waste, some councils have had to temporarily suspend or reduce the frequency of some kerbside collections.

"This is helping to free up staff to keep other vital waste services running.

"Councils are seeing an increase in household waste, which may be due to people spending more time gardening and mowing their lawn as they follow the guidance to stay at home."

He said residents could help by reducing waste, checking for updates from their council and following government guidelines on disposing of waste if they are self-isolating

He added that fly-tipping is "never acceptable".

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has produced some tips for gardeners to deal with their green waste, including:

  • Have a compost bin or heap and add material including old plants, soft prunings and kitchen waste that will not attract rats, such as fruit and veg peelings.
  • Buy or make a wormery.
  • Bury soft garden waste when digging empty plots including the vegetable garden.
  • Avoid bonfires, because recent windy weather has left material very dry so it may burn too fast and risk fires getting out of control.
  • Woody prunings can be cut up with secateurs and stacked to rot in an out of the way place to help wildlife or, snipped fine, spread back on the ground amongst trees and shrubs.
  • Pruning now can disturb birds so only do it if you are sure no birds are nesting in the shrub or hedge. Otherwise leave pruning until September.
  • Bundles of twigs and hollow stems can be tied up and wedged in walls, trees or in boxes to make resting and nesting areas for insects.
  • The RHS suggests you could mow your lawn more frequently, with shorter clippings allowed to fall back and disappear into the grass, or collect them and use them as mulch around trees and shrubs.

Some councils are suggesting mowing the lawn less often and letting a mini meadow appear.

Additional reporting by the Press Association.

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