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Publication - Advice and guidance

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

Published: 27 May 2020
Last updated: 15 Feb 2021 - see all updates

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.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): reopening and managing household waste recycling centres
Waste service priorities - annex A

Waste service priorities - annex A

Local Authorities are best placed to prioritise local services, taking account of available resources and their statutory responsibilities. We understand that circumstances will vary between Local Authorities, and that some of the guidance on priorities and potential mitigating measures may not be appropriate for some areas.

Across Scotland, all Local Authorities already have in place business continuity plans which they are now implementing to adjust and prioritise key services. Ultimately, it is for Local Authorities to decide how they allocate resources to deliver key services, while meeting public health considerations and statutory requirements as well as ensuring the health, safety and wellbeing of the workforce. We continue to engage with the sector and will keep options under review as the situation develops.

The main message is that during the pandemic the overall continuity of proper municipal waste management services, including separate collection and recycling, is to be safeguarded in line with EU law.  Adaptations to waste collection practices, in line with EU waste laws, are permitted but should be time and geographically limited, and proportionate to what is required to protect human health. The guidance specifies that in the case that waste collection services have to be reduced, the continuity and sufficient frequency of collections of residual waste and bio-waste should be ensured.

Where reprioritisation is necessary, the suggested order of priorities is:

1. Residual waste

A reasonable frequency of residual waste collections to be maintained at all times.

2. Other statutory collections and services

Local Authorities have other statutory duties to provide waste management services, including operating HWRCs under Section 1 of the Refuse Disposal (Amenity) Act 1978.

These statutory duties will continue to be prioritised using well-established business continuity planning arrangements, making all reasonable efforts to meet these statutory duties while adhering to COVID-19 guidance and ensuring the safety of staff and the public.

There is no specific order of priority within statutory recyclable material collections and this is for consideration at the local level, taking account of the principles outlined above. However, a route must be maintained for waste materials that would quickly become a public health hazard/nuisance if left uncollected.  

3. Non-statutory collections/services

As the name suggests, Local Authorities have greater flexibility to alter arrangements for non-statutory collections and services. Where possible Local Authorities will make all reasonable efforts to maintain or reinstate services and effective communication of changes and alternative storage or disposal instructions remains important.

First published: 27 May 2020 Last updated: 15 Feb 2021 -