Councils across the country are suspending collection of garden waste due to staff shortages due to Covid-19.
As coronavirus cases and the number of isolated people increase, local authorities have announced temporary suspensions of green waste collections, which they have no legal obligation to provide.
Several municipalities suspend the collection of green waste for periods ranging from fifteen days to several months, to concentrate on waste collection and recycling.
It comes as England lifts nearly all restrictions on coronaviruses and the hospitality, leisure, food production and retail sectors complain about having to close premises or cut back hours. opening due to the number of people who are told to self-isolate for 10 days after coming into contact with someone who tests positive for Covid-19.
There is also a continuing shortage of heavy truck drivers, blamed on the pandemic and Brexit and which has affected waste collection tours.
Doncaster’s council said its waste and recycling subcontractor Suez has a significant number of employees who have tested positive or need to self-isolate, and the nationwide shortage of heavy truck drivers means that agency workers were not available.
Mark Houlbrook, Sustainability and Waste Portfolio Holder, said: “The safety of staff and the general public must be a priority.
“It’s a balancing act to ensure everyone’s safety against the risks of Covid-19 and to ensure that trash is collected.
“However, since we have fewer staff, that means black and blue (recycling) bin collections will be given priority.”
He added, “We hope the affected staff members make a quick and full recovery. Suez and Doncaster will monitor the situation frequently and keep residents informed. We ask for the patience of the public at this time.
The council said it was suspending green waste collections from next Monday and would restart them as soon as possible.
The Somerset Waste Partnership said it expected significant issues with collections this week, with the continuing shortage of drivers nationwide and the growing impact of self-isolation from Covid-19.
Garbage and garden waste collections have been prioritized and maintained, but an increasing number of recycling collections have been missed and this is expected to continue this week, the partnership said.
In Bristol, all garden waste collections are suspended until mid-September.
Liverpool City Council said it had suspended collection of garden waste for two weeks due to an increase in staff absences linked to Covid-19.
Shirley Procter-Dow, community services manager at Copeland Borough Council in Cumbria, which also suspended collections for two weeks, said: “Unfortunately our staff are not immune to the virus.
“We have a huge number of insulators either because they have Covid or because they have been in close contact with someone who has it.
“Coupled with ‘normal’ absences due to illness, annual leave, etc., this affects our ability to complete recycling and waste collection.
“Hanging the garden collections for a short time is not something we want to do, and we’ll get back to normal as soon as possible – our goal is to start over in the week of August 2nd. “
Garden waste services, which are not a statutory service and which many municipalities charge for, were hit at the start of the pandemic, with more than a third of English municipalities putting them on hold.
A spokesperson for the Local Government Association said: “The councils know how important waste and recycling is to their residents and have worked hard throughout the pandemic to make these services run as smoothly as possible.
“Local authorities and their contractors have a duty of care to their employees and must follow government guidelines on self-isolation when staff show symptoms of Covid-19 or are in close contact with someone who tests positive .
“While most councils have been able to keep services running, many could eventually face tough decisions and need to prioritize services designed to protect the most vulnerable in their communities.