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Coronavirus (COVID-19): reopening and managing household waste recycling centres

Joint Scottish Government and COSLA guidance for local authorities on the considerations involved in reopening and operating Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) in the context of COVID-19.

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We are grateful to all those who have and are continuing to work to maintain waste collection and disposal services safely in communities across Scotland at this time. These services are vital in order to protect public health and the environment.

The Scottish Government and COSLA continue to work closely with local government and partners from across the waste industry through our Waste and Resources Sector Forum to identify pressures that arise as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and to ensure resilience across the sector.

Especially during some early periods of the pandemic, although critical services including residual (black bag) waste collections were maintained, local authorities had to temporarily reduce or suspend some waste or recycling services, including the closure of Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) due to a combination of factors. These include high-levels of workforce shortages due to the compound effects of illness, employees required to shield or isolate, and operational changes to delivery methods to enable physical distancing. This resulted in a need to prioritise the most essential services.

Where the suspension of some services did occur, these were necessary and the resilience and innovation within the sector allowed for the quick reinstatement of the majority of suspended services relatively quickly. However, we recognise that ongoing prioritisation will be required as local and national circumstances continue to change in the coming weeks and months. 

This Scottish Government and COSLA guidance was developed with input from local authorities, including waste managers and SOLACE, as well as the wider waste industry, Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS) and SEPA. Engagement will continue with Trades Unions regarding the safe operation of sites on an ongoing basis at both local and national level.

The guidance offers advice to local authorities on the prioritisation of waste services (annex A) and on considerations involved in operating HWRCs in the context of COVID-19. However, it is recognised that decisions on such matters also need to reflect local circumstances which local authorities are best placed to assess.

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