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What Effect Did the Pandemic Have on Recycling?

Pandemic Recycling

The pandemic virtually shut society down. We all stayed at home. We shopped online and ordered takeaways. That meant most of us produced more waste. So what was the knock-on effect on our recycling efforts? What effect did the pandemic have on recycling?

The Effect of the Pandemic on Recycling

The main problem that being at home and producing more waste caused was increased recycling contamination. Less frequent household waste collections due to staff sickness. The closure of waste and recycling centres. This produced a perfect storm. People had no choice but to put their excess household waste in their recycling bins.

Bradford: A Typical Example

If you want to see a typical example of the effect the pandemic had on recycling, consider Bradford. A council report stated that the west district of the city saw a 15% rise in recycling contamination during the pandemic.

Ordinarily, the council records recycling contamination levels of around 30%. During the pandemic, contamination rose to over 45%. Figures show that contamination increased waste processing costs by around £200,000 per month.

The Burning Issue of Recycling in Wales

Just like local authorities in England, Welsh councils struggled to cope with the effect of the pandemic on recycling. Many had to deal with a huge increase in household waste amid a backdrop of recycling centre closures.

  • Wrexham Council said it dealt with excess waste it only normally sees at Christmas. Powys saw a 21% rise in kerbside waste volume.
  • Cardiff council was the only council in Wales to change how it treated recycling during the pandemic.

To maintain kerbside waste collections, the council began burning household recycling. A member of the council’s cabinet said that during the lockdown, it faced many problems. Namely a surge in domestic waste production and a shortage of refuse workers. Not to mention that council staff sort recycling by hand, and this was out of the question during a pandemic.

How Are Councils Dealing With Recycling?

Due to the negative effect of the pandemic on recycling, many councils are stepping up their efforts to improve recycling rates. Bradford council employs a team of neighbourhood recycling wardens. The wardens visit areas where recycling contamination is high. They hand out leaflets about recycling and how to sort it out before collection day. Then on collection day, the council’s recycling team visits each area to engage with and educate residents. Every week, residents are sent ‘targeted communication’ and there are ongoing campaigns on social media.

What effect has the pandemic had on recycling in your area? Did your own recycling habits change during the lockdown? We’d love to know. For more interesting articles on how to recycle more and live sustainably, check out the rest of our blog.

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