The COVID-19 pandemic hit Europe in early 2020, several months before the end of the COLLECTORS project. It forced public authorities and municipal waste operators to rapidly adapt their waste management systems and procedures to take into consideration elements such as safety and health measures for employees, waste treatment requirements, general procedures due to coronavirus for waste sector, staff availability, etc.
To monitor the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on different waste management systems, ACR+ gathered data on the situation in different countries. The aim was to gather and exchange practices on how public authorities in Europe and beyond reacted and adapted their waste management systems, being aware that situations are diverse and dependent on the national and local constraints as well as means available. First results were shared in April 2020, synthesized in an infographic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had several impacts on municipal waste management, among which:
- Impact on waste generators: change in population, slowdowns or closure of business, stop of tourism activities… that led to fluctuating quantities and composition.
- Impact on the composition of waste generated, generated by the changes of consumption patterns and the generation of waste from personal protection equipment, generally disposed as healthcare waste or residual waste.
- Impact on waste services: shortage of staff, restriction of movement preventing inhabitants to reach collection points.
These different trends drove local authorities to rearrange their collection services, e.g., by closing civic amenity sites to limit interactions between the population and staff, or reduce or stop some of their services to overcome the difficulties linked with shortage of staff. It had an impact on source separation, but also on fly-tipping that increased in many territories. Besides, public authorities had to set specific arrangements to ensure the safety of their staff when collecting waste from households potentially contaminated with COVID-19.
Detailed information on the observed impact of the pandemic on local waste collection system are available in the section dedicated to the COVID-19 of the COLLECTORS Guidelines for implementation.