Briefing on Waste Collection/Disposal in Kent
Response to the Covid-19 pandemic
Kent’s18 Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRC) closed on 23 March in response to the Government’s call for people to stay at home for all but the most essential of reasons. It remains the case that travel to a HWRC is not allowed under the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020.
The six Waste Transfer Stations, also run by Kent County Council, remain open for the kerbside collections of the districts/boroughs. They’re also open for trade waste. KCC’s HWRC staff have moved over to help at the Waste Transfer Stations and to help the district/borough Councils.
Kerbside waste collections have been made the top priority by the government because there would be an immediate public health risk were they disrupted. KCC has worked with the districts/boroughs to stabilise services because sickness and self-isolation have cut their staff numbers by as much as 85% in some areas. HWRCs are a medium priority.
Some districts/boroughs have kept a full kerbside service by moving staff from other teams and using agency staff. Garden waste collections were stopped by some councils but they are back now except in Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge & Malling and Canterbury with all but Canterbury planning to restore these shortly.
There is daily phone contact between the districts/boroughs and KCC and a weekly online meeting to ensure kerbside collections run smoothly With so many people at home the districts/boroughs estimate kerbside waste collection up by 20%. KCC monitors the weight of collections so can give more exact figures in its normal waste data.
To keep kerbside collections running as normal across Kent, KCC has offered the district/boroughs various supportive measures including:
• offering extended opening hours and flexibility at KCC’s Waste Transfer Stations
• three collection vehicles and crews for six weeks to Canterbury City Council which it will use to collect side waste left beside normal kerbside collections
• Two caged collection vehicles and crew for six weeks to Canterbury City Council to use for bulky waste collection
• lending staff to Swale Borough Council to help the commercial Biffa team with waste collection and street cleaning.
• Providing Maidstone Borough Council with a collection vehicle and crew for six weeks to get into streets narrowed by the increased numbers of cars parked in them whilst residents are home.
• Two caged collection vehicles and crew for six weeks for Thanet to use for bulky waste collections
• Three caged collection vehicles and crew for use by the South West Kent Partnership (Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council & Tunbridge Wells Borough Council).
The direct cost to KCC of these measures has been an additional £200,000 expenditure.
The Kent Resource Partnership (KRP), of the county’s 13 councils have agreed core messages to be sent to residents principally through social media.
They include: –
• Garden waste: encouraging residents to consider composting, where possible and not to put it in with residual waste or to have bonfires.
• Online purchasing: encourage residents to buy less online to cut packaging waste
• Parking: encourage residents to park sensibly during lockdown to avoid disrupting the waste collection lorries’ rounds.
• Residual/Food Waste: encourage residents to plan shopping trips so they don’t buy too much food and end up throwing it away.
• House clear outs: encourage residents to avoid doing this to keep waste to a minimum.
• Safety: for residents with COVID-19 or similar symptoms, to double-bag waste, leave it separate for 72 hours and then place outside for 7am on their collection day.
Some KCC members are concerned about reports that flytipping has increased in Kent since HWRCs were closed.
Rogue traders may call to offer to remove household waste but then flytip it and KCC is continuing its campaign to warn people to beware of anyone who calls to offer such a service. Householders should know they can be fined if flytipped waste is traced to them unless they took reasonable steps to ensure its proper disposal. Anyone offering disposal services must have a waste carrier licence which can be easily checked on the Environment Agency website. There are many reputable waste businesses in Kent and they report an increase in the hire of skips and hippo-bags. Garden waste collection subscriptions have also increased within the districts.
KCC monitors by weight how much flytipping is brought to the Waste Transfer Stations by the districts/boroughs but there is a time lag in its being reported and coming to our sites. For a more immediate picture, we asked the districts/boroughs to tell us how many flytipping reports they had had. Three districts’ records are kept quarterly. Of the remaining nine there were variations up and down but overall reports of flytipping in Kent had not increased.
However, most flytipping is business or commercial which would not be taken to or accepted at a Household Waste Recycling Centre.
Where districts/borough have identified flytipping hotspots KCC’s Waste Enforcement Advisor has supported them with advice and with hidden cameras to provide evidence they can use in further action or prosecution.
KCC is currently investigating 12 cases of fly tipping.
1 from Dartford.
1 from Sevenoaks
2 from Gravesham.
8 from Swale.
One particular success story worth telling from last week is of a KCC Highway Steward who got pictures of suspected flytipping which were sent to district/borough councils. As a result Kent Police seized a vehicle associated offences across Maidstone, Swale and Medway. Maidstone Borough Council is now leading this investigation working with Swale and Medway. The advisor is also liaising with the newly formed Environment Agency Joint Unit for Waste Crime, which deals with large scale fly tipping in Kent and neighbouring counties.
KCC has committed a further £250,000 in our 2020/21 budget to support work by the districts/borough councils and Kent Police in extra enforcement against flytipping and for information campaigns to discourage use of rogue traders.
Plans for re-opening the HWRCs
KCC’s officers are making plans to open our HWRCs as soon as Government advice and staffing levels allow us to do so safely.
Our top priority is protecting kerbside collections so we must be sure we have enough staff to keep open the Waste Transfer Stations when HWRC staff return to normal duties.
KCC will coordinate HWRC reopening with neighbouring authorities to discourage people from outside the county from using KCC sites.
To manage demand Medway Council is developing a booking system which KCC will part-fund and use.
The three contractors which operate KCC’s HWRCs have all provided plans for how social distancing could work when sites are re-opened.
Traffic management is also being reviewed to stop queuing vehicles from impeding dustcarts going to the Waste Transfer Stations which would disrupt kerbside collections.
There will be appropriate PPE for staff at the sites.
The government needs to make clear that going to an HWRC is an essential reason for travel.
Once the HWRCs are reopened
KCC’s Waste team has put considerable effort into making sure KCC has been able to receive the waste collected by the districts/boroughs without interruption and in providing additional support to the districts/boroughs. We should all be clear that once we re-open the HWRCs that our resources will be fully utilised operating these and the additional support to districts/boroughs with kerbside collections will cease.
Cabinet Member for Environment