Posted: 23.03.20 at 10:30 by Daniel Mumby - Local Democracy Reporter
A new recycling scheme in Glastonbury will still be rolled out on time despite the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
The Somerset Waste Partnership (SWP)’s Recycle More scheme will see refuse collections reduced to once every three weeks as more items can be recycled at the kerbside.
The SWP has said it intends to begin the roll-out in late-June as planned, even though it has had to suspend its existing garden waste collections due to staffing issues.
This comes as one of Somerset’s MPs has hinted more funding may be made available to counter “workforce challenges” and ensure waste can still be collected.
Taunton Deane MP and Defra minister Rebecca Pow made this commitment in the House of Commons on Tuesday (March 17) following a question by shadow communities minister Stephen Morgan MP.
He asked: “What additional funding will be made available to local authorities to deal with potential waste management issues arising from workforce challenges caused by Covid-19?”
Ms Pow replied: “Defra is engaging with the waste industry, local authorities, the Environment Agency, and other relevant parties to discuss contingency planning for waste management as a result of potential workforce challenges posed by the spread of Covid-19.
“These discussions include consideration of potential risks and impacts and whether further measures or resources funding might be necessary.”
The SWP will begin rolling out Recycle More on June 29, with more than 50,000 properties in Mendip being the first to receive the service.
From there it will gradually be rolled out across the rest of Somerset, with some areas having to wait until February 2022 to see the benefits.
A spokesman said: “As things stand, nothing has changed, though of course, like every organisation, we’ll have to consider if the disruption caused by the coronavirus will have any impact on the timing of all future work plans and projects.
“We’ve not been made aware of any additional funding for waste services, but will monitor the situation.”
The SWP has suspended all garden waste collections from Monday (March 23) following reduced staffing levels.
Anyone using the garden waste collection service will have their existing subscription extended for up to 12 months.
The SWP has also suspended its bulky waste collections from inside properties, and is taking no new requests for new bins, recycling boxes or food waste caddies.
Its Slim My Waste, Feed My Face campaign – designed to reduce the amount of food waste being sent to landfill – has also been paused until the crisis is over.
Councillor Sarah Dyke, who chairs the SWP, said: “It’s unfortunate that we’ve had to make this decision and apologise for the inconvenience, but we’ve been able to make sure nobody paying for garden waste collections loses out financially.
“We’re doing our very best to keep services running and hope everyone understands that we have to prioritise those that are most important.
“Please take a little extra time to sort through your recycling. It can make a real difference to the speed of collections which improves our chances of keeping services running smoothly.
“We don’t know exactly how staffing will be hit in the coming days, so it’s impossible to say that other services won’t be affected, though of course we’ll avoid that if we can. In these difficult times we’d appeal for everyone to be patient and bear with us.”
Somerset’s 16 recycling centres have also been closed until further notice to protect both staff and the wider public.
A spokesman for Viridor said: “Due to the large number of users at recycling centres, it has been impossible to maintain the required social distancing to ensure the safety of both our teams and users of the facilities.
“In order to protect members of the public and Viridor employees, the facilities will be closed until they can be operated safely.
“In the meantime, it is strongly recommended that everyone should follow the government advice and stay at home.”