Testing times ahead!

We now have a four-step (well, sort of five-step) “cautious” roadmap out of lockdown, the vaccination programme is working well, days are getting longer, and spring was definitely in the air when I wrote this, so it does feel like there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Which lockdown easing measure caught your eye first? Restaurants? Hairdressers? Holidays? Schools? Whichever it was, what we do know is that Lateral Flow Device (LFD) testing is becoming a growth area to gain our freedom.

Last month, LFDs (an acronym I never thought I would be using so frequently) started to cause us some problems, as I mentioned in my January blog. However, changes are afoot as Defra and PHE have agreed that LFD wastes from non-healthcare settings are no longer subject to specialist handling and disposal and can be mixed with municipal waste. To avoid any confusion, Defra states that new guidance will be issued shortly, so watch this space and we will update you when this is published. This will be a welcome relief as the costs of separately dealing with LFD wastes were looking to be quite substantial for councils and businesses, especially as the Government’s plan to get back to normality will include even more LFD testing. So, I am really pleased that common sense has prevailed, and comes soon after LARAC lobbied Defra on re-classifying this waste.

Hopefully you completed the second ADEPT survey last week, which looks at the impact of Covid-19 on waste services. LARAC has partnered with ADEPT, Defra, LGA and NAWDO to help get as many councils as possible to complete the survey so we can all learn from the results during this 3rd national lockdown. The first survey was at the beginning of February and the results can be found here on our website. It feels that whilst there is some disruption and services are affected, that we may well be seeing a “new normal” perhaps. Tonnages collected from households remain high and HWRCs continue to have restrictions in place such as booking systems and/or limited waste types. Will easing lockdown change this? HWRCs may start to open up more but my feeling is the high level of kerbside collected tonnages will continue for some time and so I think we will need a lot of effort in affecting behaviour change at the household level, starting with waste minimisation as a priority. Let us hope the forthcoming strategy consultations and legislation recognise this and give us the tools to be able to effect this change.

Hot off the press (not sure what the digital equivalent is – keyboard?) is that LARAC has awarded a tender to investigate the impact of charging for garden waste collections. We are looking to get this up and running in time to provide robust evidence for the consistency consultation due to be released in March. But we also think it will be useful for councils considering charging (if allowed) in future, or to help maximise tonnage from existing schemes. As always, our members will be the first to know when the results are available.

Stay safe.