Following the COVID-19 pandemic, the COLLECTORS consortium decided to conduct a survey and complementary researches on how the pandemic impacted municipal waste management, in order to identify good practices that can contribute to keep a proper waste collection service and not disrupt separate collection. As a result, the project updated both its Policy recommendations and Guidelines for implementation to include sections on the impact and measures taken to face the COVID-19 pandemic.
The capacity of local waste collection systems to cope with the pandemic while ensuring the safety of staff, the level of source separation, and preventing illegal practices such as fly-tipping, could be maintained thanks to different factors:
- Flexibility to ensure the continuation of priority collection services: the territories that could maintain good collection were the ones that could re-allocate resources among the different collection schemes. Multi-skilling the operational staff to help them to fulfill different operational roles can contribute to improve the resilience of the service.
- Setting specific instructions and measures to collect household waste contaminated or potentially contaminated by the COVID-19.
- Keeping civic amenity sites open with adequate measure can be recommended. Online booking systems received very positive feedback from users, but also from staff.
- Defining priority levels for collection services, focusing on collection modes limiting the interactions with inhabitants, or on specific waste fractions (e.g., residual waste, food waste, etc.). Keeping collection frequencies for sorted fractions greatly contribute to keep sorting performances steady.
- Giving priority to online communication to reach inhabitants, provide clear information and simple, coordinated messages, and explaining the reasons behind changes.
- Promoting waste prevention to reduce the pressure on the waste collection system.
- Establishing a consistent and continuous reporting of the evolution of quantities of the different collected waste streams and the available capacities of treatment plants.
- Tackling illegal practices such as fly-tipping by setting a closer monitoring, the enforcement of the regulation, an adequate communication, and ensuring that alternative collection systems are still available.
- Taking advantage of guidance, support systems and networks, to identify good practices and recommendations.
- Follow UNEP recommendations regarding the management of waste from COVID-positive households
These different elements can be promoted at regional or national level through the implementation of specific measures and policies described in the Policy recommendations.
Detailed information on the results of the survey, already-identified good practices at national, regional, and local level, and key recommendations for handling waste collection in time of pandemics are available in the Guidelines for implementation.