Disposal costs soar as household waste increases during lockdown

The amount of waste Essex residents have produced since the start of the pandemic has soared, figures have shown – forcing Essex County Council (ECC) into having to pay millions more to deal with it.

ECC has had to allocate almost £5 million in additional funds to deal with the 47,000 tonnes of additional waste produced so far during the coronavirus crisis.

The money to be drawn from the Emergency Reserve will fund the costs of waste treatment and disposal and associated haulage for the additional household waste.

It will fund the cost of statutory Recycling Credit payments to Essex Waste Collection Authorities (WCA) as a result of the additional household waste collected for recycling. It will also ensure the safe operation of the Recycling Centres for Household Waste (RCHW) service, including traffic management and social distancing measures.

All waste collected in Essex is weighed prior to disposal.

Since the beginning of the current financial year there has been an increase in the quantity of waste requiring treatment or disposal across all streams – whether it be residual, garden and food.

For example, the amount of residual waste has increased by almost 13 per cent.

When projected for the full year it is estimated that the cumulative impact will be an additional 47,124 tonnes requiring treatment or disposal.

The blended rate per tonne of managing the waste is £93.03, giving rise to an estimated pressure of £3.5 million for the period to March 31, 2021.

It is estimated that Recycling Credits will be payable on an additional 9,946 tonnes giving rise to an estimated unbudgeted pressure of £720,770 for the period to March 31, 2021.

The estimated unbudgeted net pressure resulting from the need to deploy traffic management actions at the RCHW’s is £660,382.

The increased waste load has not come as any surprise, but still raises questions about ECC’s waste strategy which it is now looking to redraw. A key part of its waste strategy is the Tovi recycling centre in Basildon, which has been out of action since last year when ECC won a court case against the operators.

ECC Green councillor James Abbott said: “This comes back to the point about having flexibility.

“You would expect a significant change in waste patterns given lockdown. You would expect a change in the pattern of waste production.

“But if there was a more responsive flexible system then this type of unusual circumstance would have been better catered for.”


Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter