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Reopening HWRCs during COVID-19

Since movement restrictions have been in place, many HWRCs have been closed. Consequently, this has had an adverse effect on the public and the environment with fly-tipping incidents increasing. Wiser Environment understands that several operators and industry bodies are keen to push forward with the reopening of HWRCs. To prevent causing harm, HWRCs will seek to open in an orderly and structured manner.


On the 23rd of March, the Prime Minister addressed the nation on COVID-19. In this statement, the PM instructed that the general public must stay at home and avoid public gatherings. This COVID-19 action plan had a direct effect on Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs). The following day after the PM’s statement, many HWRCs closed; issuing updates to their local communities encouraging them to stay home and hold on to their waste. An unforeseen consequence of this action was a spike in fly-tipping incidents. Richmondshire District Council expressed that they experienced a three-fold increase in fly-tipped waste since the closure of their HWRCs.

Acknowledging the fly-tipping issue, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) determined that HWRCs should reopen. Documented in their ‘Guidance on prioritising waste collection services during coronavirus‘ report, Defra insists that “Local authorities must provide places for residents to deposit their household waste at all reasonable times”. The Waste Industry Safety and Health (WISH) Forum supports Defra’s claim as well. In their ‘COVID-19 and Waste Management Activities‘ document, the Forum argues that the closure of HWRCs “may result in adverse responses from members of the public and others”.

The plan to reopen HWRCs

Wiser Environment has been in communication with several HWRC operators across the country. Many agree with the perspective of Defra and WISH. These operators are keen to maintain safety and reopen in an orderly and structured manner.

To achieve this goal, Wiser understands that sites are planning to reopen their HWRCs in a phased approach. This will help mitigate complications arising from staff shortages. Also, both rural and urban sites will gradually reopen; spreading the demand and limiting travel time for householders. Furthermore, a one-in, one-out system will be established to avoid overwhelming the site and create social distancing difficulties.

To help promote social distancing, sites will provide a ‘no assistance, no contact’ service alongside enforcing a 2-meter separation rule. Additionally, Wiser expects that public demand for HWRC services will be high. This could cause queuing on public roads. In response to this risk, HWRCs have the option to call upon the Police to help with traffic management.

Wiser Environment is ready and available to help support the process of reopening HWRCs during the COVID-19 movement restrictions. In cooperation with sites, Wiser can review permit compliance and update management systems; establishing the organised approached needed to reopen safely. For more information contact Wiser Environment or call on 01480 462232.