The coronavirus pandemic has caused unprecedented disruption to people, communities, and industries across the UK, including the waste sector. The extreme social distancing measures brought in to fight the outbreak have led to many waste collection services being reduced or suspended altogether in some areas. In the face of this, it is more important than ever for households and businesses to improve their recycling systems and identify ways to adapt their waste management to suit the changing economic climate.

What impact is coronavirus having on recycling?

As mentioned, the coronavirus pandemic has led to many waste collection services being reduced or suspended. This has caused various challenges when it comes to recycling. According to Lousie Smith researcher for the House of Commons Library – “If recycling services are reduced then more recyclable materials will instead go to incineration or landfill. Over a prolonged period, this may affect the Government’s ability to meet recycling targets.” The Recycling Association has also warned that a drop in recycling rates could lead to a shortage of fibre, i.e. cardboard and paper, which could have a significant impact on supplies of food and medical packaging. Home deliveries have increased massively during the lockdown period and large volumes of valuable fibre is now ending up in general household bins and going to landfill.

How are councils responding to the coronavirus?

Currently, councils are able to use their discretion when it comes to deciding whether to keep waste management services operational. Fortunately, most household waste is still being collected regularly and many recycling sites remain open. However, certain areas of the country have been forced to limit waste collections to fortnightly or monthly services due to staff shortages and operational difficulties. This is causing obvious issues when it comes to efficient waste management and recycling. The government has released the following advice when it comes to waste disposal and recycling – “Anyone who feels ill should place all their waste in the general rubbish bin, and should double-bag it, making sure the bags are securely tied. They should then wait at least 72 hours before placing it out for collection. This material should not be put in recycling”. Everyone should follow the government guidelines to help safeguard waste management workers and reduce the risk of infection.

What can we do to improve recycling rates?

While it is clear that the coronavirus pandemic has caused physical barriers when it comes to green waste management, there are still things you can do to improve recycling rates. For instance, households and businesses can improve the efficiency of their waste management by using a cardboard waste baler. This recycling machine can be used to compress cardboard boxes into space-efficient bales, thus allowing you to store waste in your home or business conveniently until it can be transported to recycling facilities. You should also try to minimise the amount of waste by avoiding making unnecessary purchases online and limiting the amount of garden and food waste you produce. This will help to reduce the strain on local waste management facilities and lower the volume of waste being incarcerated or ending up at landfills. Make sure you monitor the recycling situation in your local area and check when waste collection services are operational. You should always put bins and bales out the night before your scheduled collection day and keep in mind that you will have separate operators for bins and bales. If the recycling centers in your local area are closed due to the coronavirus, then you should consider travelling a bit further to a recycling facility that remains open.


It is clear that the coronavirus outbreak has presented various challenges when it comes to waste collection and recycling. In particular, the social distancing measures brought in to help fight the pandemic have made it more difficult to deal with waste in a way that is sustainable. Many waste and recycling services have been reduced or suspended altogether and this could have serious long-term implications on waste management and recycling. That being said, there is no better time to look at our environmental impact and make lifestyle changes to create a healthier, greener society. Everyone should do their part to maintain recycling rates and ensure that waste is disposed of in a way that is eco-friendly and sustainable.