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 have been working closely with Local Government and partners from across the waste industry through our Waste and Resources Sector Forum to identify pressures that have arisen as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and to ensure resilience across the sector.
During this national crisis, although critical services including residual (black bag) waste collections have been maintained, Local Authorities have had to temporarily reduce or suspend some waste or recycling services due to a combination of factors. These include high-levels of workforce shortages due to employees requiring to shield or isolate and operational changes to delivery methods to enable physical distancing. This has resulted in a need to prioritise the most essential services. In addition to the above factors, all Local Authority Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) have closed in order to discourage non-essential travel.
These have been necessary changes. The resilience and innovation within the sector has already allowed for the reinstatement of the majority of suspended recycling 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 has been 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 considerations involved in reopening and 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.