Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs written question – answered on 21st May 2020.

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Photo of Lord Greaves Lord Greaves Liberal Democrat

To ask Her Majesty's Government what assessment they have made of (1) the impact of the temporary closure of recycling companies on waste disposal authorities, and (2) the ability of those authorities to store or otherwise dispose of or deal with the recyclates collected or received from waste collection authorities.

Photo of Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park The Minister of State, Department for International Development, The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Minister of State

Recycling companies rely on Household Waste and Recycling Centres (HWRCs) to provide them with some of the materials which can then be used to make new products. Defra officials have been working closely with local authorities and the waste sector to keep HWRCs open. There is no reason in law why HWRCs cannot be open and where possible, local authorities should seek to retain access to HWRC services for their residents to dispose of waste. The Government is not setting a date by which HWRCs should be open. We recognise that the opening of HWRCs will depend on local circumstances and resource availability. A “one size fits all” approach is not appropriate. The decision to open a HWRC remains with the relevant local authority. Our most recent guidance can be found here:

Indications are that most local authorities have been able to maintain collection services for packaging and food waste and continue to send materials to be recycled. Material recovery facilities which receive, separate and prepare recyclable materials for reprocessing and recycling companies, have been operating whilst maintaining social distancing measures. The impacts of COVID-19 and related restrictions on these facilities and the recycling sector are being closely monitored by Defra. In addition, the Charted Institute for Waste Management (CIWM) has worked with Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), local authority bodies and commercial waste collectors to establish the WasteSupport platform to assist local authorities to access additional capacity in the commercial waste collection sector for processing waste.

For some materials (including waste electrical equipment, furniture , and textiles) there are particular challenges and Defra is in regular discussions with these sectors, including the reuse/repair and reprocessing organisations, about these.

The Environment Agency has published time-limited Regulatory Position Statements (RPSs) to allow some flexibility for local authorities and other operators where, for reasons beyond their control, compliance with certain regulatory requirements may not be possible due to COVID-19. These include the ability to store more material at a permitted site than the permit usually allows. Each COVID-19 RPS sets out when it can be applied and conditions that will need to comply with, to ensure that the risks to the environment and human health are minimised. More details can be found at the following link:

Defra has published guidance on prioritisation of waste services and on management of HWRCs during the current pandemic and continues to monitor the situation with local authorities and industry bodies.

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