Councils need to prioritise picking up “black bag” residual rubbish as services come under pressure in the coronavirus pandemic, the Government has said.
New guidance to English local authorities comes as many face staff shortages due to sickness and self-isolation, and households are producing extra waste from their homes during the lockdown.
The Government guidance says: “It is important that local authorities maintain collections of residual waste and food waste and prevent waste from building up so as to protect local amenity and public health.”
Councils should consider reallocating “appropriate” staff from elsewhere within the local authority or waste collection company to maintain minimum statutory services, which includes picking up residual rubbish.
Weekly food collections should be maintained as far as possible, though as a last resort it may be necessary to halt pick-ups temporarily and ask residents to put kitchen scraps in the bin.
Where food and garden waste is collected together, residents would also have to be asked not to collect garden waste.
The advice also tells councils that separate garden waste collections are a low priority and could be temporarily halted, something which many councils have already done.
Dry recycling, such as picking up cans, paper and bottles, should continue, although the frequency of collections could be reduced, particularly if it is currently being collected weekly.
The Government warned that stopping recycling collections, which are also a statutory requirement, could lead to more residual waste which costs more to dispose of.
Recyclable materials are important for new packaging and gaps in the supply chain may open up if collections stop, while householders may take time to go back to recycling if they are interrupted for a significant length of time.
Councils across England have reacted in a variety of ways to pressures on public services caused by the coronavirus pandemic, with some still able to maintain normal bin services and others suspending all but residual rubbish pickups.
A spokesman for the Local Government Association said most council-run waste and recycling kerbside collection services were operating as normal thanks to the hard work of councils.
“Any reduction in recycling collection services is a difficult decision for councils and will never be taken lightly.
“As this new guidance rightly recognises, decisions on waste and recycling services must always be based on local circumstances.
“Residents and businesses can help by following the advice from their local council and continuing to recycle where this is possible.”
He added that fly-tipping is never acceptable, and urged people not to burn garden waste as composting or recycling it is better for the environment.
Burning household waste is an offence and liable to prosecution, he warned.