Covid-19 guidance: waste and recycling collection arrangements

WRITTEN BY Local Partnerships
POSTED ON 17th April 2020

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic there will be an ongoing requirement to ensure continued provision of essential services, one of which is waste collection and disposal.

The LGA and Local Partnerships have been working on a guide to help authorities deal with increasing numbers of enquiries from residents and businesses about waste and recycling collection arrangements.

Authorities will have a range of contracts for the collection and disposal of all aspects of waste. This includes municipal, commercial and clinical waste.

Authorities will face a number of challenges in ensuring continuation of these services including:

  • significant changes in the volume and composition of waste and recycling
  • availability of contractor and authority resources throughout the pandemic, including over-capacity in some areas (such as commercial waste)
  • issues within the contractor and supply chain, including the potential requirement for supplier relief
  • the changing nature of waste collection, including the temporary closure of household waste recycling centres
  • increases in cases of fly-tipping, which may not be immediately reported
  • contractor issues relating to the management and disposal of waste and recycling, including changes to volumes and processing capacity
  • the inability to forecast accurately demand for waste services
  • the ability to manage waste contracts remotely

It is important to work with contractors, ensuring that there is effective communication between key stakeholders so that this essential service can continue. Key points include:

  • working with contractors to support business continuity plans
  • considering redeployment of resources from elsewhere, ensuring continued provision of service through safe working practices
  • monitoring the availability and capacity of strategically important facilities
  • establishing alternative collection practices
  • working with contractors to establish alternative routes and smaller teams collecting that waste and more, shorter collections rounds
  • working with contractors to establish the impact on processing waste
  • working with contractors to establish any variations required to existing contracts (incorporating recently published guidance, adapting payment terms and performance regimes)
  • documenting changes for this period, and not allowing this period to affect the remainder of the contract
  • ensuring continued dialogue with Defra, so you are aware of national and contractor-related issues which may impact your business contingency planning

Some waste contracts may be approaching expiry. While working through current issues, it is important to continue establishing the options for services going forward and, therefore, the process for replacing the existing contract. This includes any associated procurement processes that may be required in due course. Whilst the current situation is causing significant change, and the duration of this is unclear, it is important not to replace the contract in its entirety.

We are aware that some contractors are seeking to alter or terminate contracts using the force majeure clauses in their existing contracts. The applicability of this will depend on the contract definition. Cabinet Office guidance, based on the recently published PPNs, will enable authorities to work with contractors to establish a solution.

The focus of all key stakeholders should be on continuity of service. Discussions with the contractor should therefore be resolution-orientated; working together to establish and document appropriate solutions.

If you would like to discuss issues relating to existing waste contracts, or with changes required owing to current circumstances, please contact us, LPenquiries@local.gov.uk

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