Frequently Asked Questions - coronavirus waste and recycling service disruptions

24 APR 20 | 5 minute read

Coronavirus is the biggest challenge we have faced in our lifetimes and the measures we are taking to deal with it reflect its magnitude. The changes people are being asked to make are difficult, fast-moving and changeable – however they are essential to help us slow down the spread of the virus as much as we can and protect public health and safety. And that’s why waste and recycling services across Scotland have been affected, but these disruptions will only be in place for as long as they need to be.

How do I find out about waste collection and recycling service changes that will affect me?

You can find out the status of your local waste and recycling services right here. This information is likely to change often so please check regularly.

Why are kerbside recycling collections being scaled back or stopped?

Local authorities across Scotland are working hard to provide the best possible service whilst dealing with the impact of coronavirus. Waste and recycling crews are designated key workers, and they are doing a fantastic job in very difficult circumstances. In line with Government guidelines the priority is protecting public health and safety, so as a result, many waste and recycling services have been temporarily disrupted across Scotland.

Why is this?

  1. Many people across Scotland are now self-isolating, which means waste services across the country are operating with fewer staff.
  2. Social distancing means local authorities cannot have a full crew in a cab at any one time. This has an impact on operations and logistics.

This means the overall number of collections has been reduced and the type of waste collection prioritised. Local authorities will prioritise general waste collections first and recycling collections where possible.

Will recycling services resume in my area?

Yes, in due course, recycling collections will resume. Disruptions will not be in place any longer than they need to be and we  appreciate your understanding and patience during this time. Updates on timescales will be communicated on your local authority website and social media channels.

What can I do with my recycling for the time being?

Until recycling collections resume, please maximise the capacity of your recycling bins/containers by filling them with the correct materials, with the exception of food waste. Top tips include using the wash and squash method for bottles and cans and flattening cardboard - this will help you make the most of the space available. Please don’t over-compact bins though, so they can be easily emptied when collections resume. Clean and dry recycling materials can sit in these bins without any issues until recycling collections restart.

Once you have run out of space, try to find other spaces that can be used to store dry recycling materials – that could be a garage, on top of kitchen units, in your shed or a hall cupboard.

If your food waste recycling service has been temporarily stopped, your food waste should be placed in the general waste bin for the time being. Or you can try home composting or even looking at wildlife websites for ideas on creating bird food cakes to hang in your garden.

Are there any ways I can minimise my waste?

Minimising the amount of waste and food waste we produce is important especially at this time when we’re spending more time at home. Anything we can do to reduce waste will make a real difference and help support local authorities.

Why not consider:

What can I do with my garden waste?

You could consider home composting or storing it within your garden. There are no health risks associated with storing garden waste in this way.

Are Household Waste and Recycling Centres open?

In line with national guidance, Household Waste and Recycling Centres (HWRC) are closed until further notice. The priority continues to be protecting public health and safety, which has resulted in the temporary closure of HWRCs.

This is because:

  • All members of the public are advised to stay at home and only make essential journeys.
  • Contractors and HWRC operators are also experiencing reduced staff numbers.

During this time, bulkier items and excess waste should be held onto until such time as HWRC sites reopen and bulk uplift services resumes. Excess garden cuttings and grass in the meantime can be composted.

What should I do with items I would normally take to a HWRC?

As we are all spending more time at home, we will no doubt be taking the opportunity to spring clean and may have large bulky items that we would normally take to a HWRC. However, the priority continues to be protecting public health, and for that reason HWRCs have had to close but only for a temporary period. To help play your part in these challenging times please find somewhere suitable and safe at home or in the garden to store these items until HWRCs reopen.

Flytipping is a crime, regardless of the circumstances, and presents a hazard to people and the environment. At a time when local authorities are stretched, being asked to deal with flytipping is a burden that can reduce the service available to other areas of the community in need of support.

If you see evidence of flytipping you can report it in a number of ways, including via the online Dumb Dumpers form or reporting directly to the relevant local authority.

Can I burn my waste?

Please do not get rid of garden or other waste by burning it. The smoke can pose a risk to people’s health - particularly the vulnerable and those with respiratory problems who are required to stay at home at this time. By not burning, everyone will be able to enjoy their garden during periods of nicer weather at this time. In line with national guidance, Household Waste and recycling centres will remain closed until further notice. The priority continues to be protecting public health and safety, which has resulted in the temporary closure of HWRCs.

This is because:

  1. All members of the public are advised to stay at home and only make essential journeys.
  2. Contractors and HWRC operators are also experiencing reduced staff numbers.

Can I use supermarket recycling points on my weekly visit?

All members of the public are advised to stay at home and only make essential journeys. Supermarket recycling points will not be serviced for the time being, so please avoid using them. Instead, have a look at our top tips and advice on how to reduce waste and store your recycling.

Can I still make donations to charity shops?

Unfortunately, charity shops are closed for the time being. All members of the public are advised to stay at home and only make essential journeys at this time. Please do not leave any donations of items or clothes on charity shop doorsteps. Please keep your unwanted items at home and until second hand shops reopen.

I’m worried that the reduction in services will increase the likelihood of vermin?

General waste is being prioritised and will still be collected regularly. In areas where food waste is no longer being collected it should be placed in your general waste bin. As long as all waste is responsibly bagged and stored, there is no additional risk of vermin.

I’m self-isolating and/or showing symptoms of coronavirus, what should I do with my waste?

In line with guidance from Health Protection Scotland, please ensure all waste items that have been in contact with anyone displaying symptoms of the virus including used tissues and disposable items such as bottles or cloths are disposed of securely. When full, the plastic bag containing those items should be placed in a second bin bag and tied securely. These bags should be stored for 72 hours before being put out for collection in your general waste bin.

What should I do when putting my bins out to help protect myself and public health?

  1. Put bins out the evening before your collection is scheduled
  2. lean bin handles with disinfectant before and after collection
  3. Bag any wipes, cloths, gloves etc. used for cleaning and put into your general waste bin
  4. Bring bins in immediately after collection to keep pavements clear in support of the 2 metre physical distancing guidance

Will these events change current policy targets?

There are no plans to change current policy targets, but the impact of these events will be monitored closely.

What will the impact be on recycling figures?

Local Authorities across Scotland are having to make difficult decisions in relation to frontline services during this challenging time. Where possible all waste and recycling collections will continue but local authorities will have to make changes to continue to protect public health and ensure waste is collected as quickly and regularly as possible. The impact on recycling figures will depend on how long these changes last in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Thank you for your patience and understanding at a challenging time for all of us.