Impact of the pandemic on municipal waste management systems

Photo: Daniel Roberts, Pixabay

Although the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hit Europe to this day, the report focuses on the first “wave” which runs from February to June 2020. The report is a continuation of an initiative started in March 2020, in the early hours of the pandemic, by mapping how public authorities in Europe and beyond responded and adapted their waste management systems to the urgency of the situation.

Brussels, Belgium – The pandemic has proven to be very difficult for local authorities to keep municipal waste services available to residents. ACR + monitored and analyzed the impact of measures taken following the COVID-19 outbreak on waste collection services, waste production and sorting performance. In March 2020, responding to requests from its members, ACR + began to collect data on changes in municipal waste management in various regions of Europe, both on regulatory changes and on guidance proposed by authorities. national and regional, as on the local practices implemented by the authorities and the companies of waste management. The result of this initiative, including an infographic summarizing the trends observed in March, is available on the ACR + website.

In July 2020, ACR + launched an online survey as part of the COLLECTEURS project to better understand the measures taken at the local level and the evolution of the generated and sorted quantities of municipal waste during the “first wave” of the pandemic. . 16 respondents from 10 different countries provided detailed responses; the panel covers very different territories in terms of typology, size or tourist intensity.

The report on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on municipal waste management systems reveals the main information and trends emerging from this survey. It also gives an overview of the measures taken by local authorities to deal with the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and containment measures during the firs. Local data was collected to analyze the impact of municipal waste production and sorting performance. In addition, several illustrations of good practices addressing key challenges are also highlighted.

The analysis of the responses to the survey and the various guidelines and reports identified made it possible to list several key recommendations that were already presented in the COLLECTORS Guidelines for implementation:

  • Flexibility is essential to ensure the continuity of priority collection services, and the territories that could maintain good collection are those that could reallocate resources between different collection systems.
  • It may be advisable to keep civic amenity sites open with adequate measures, possibly with online reservation.
  • Define priority levels for collection services, focusing on collection methods limiting interactions with residents, or on specific waste fractions. Keeping selective collection services in operation is essential to maintain sorting performance.
  • Focus on online communication to reach residents, provide clear information and simple and coordinated messages, and explain the reasons for the changes.
  • Establish consistent and continuous reporting on the evolution of quantities.
  • Fight against illegal practices such as the dumping of flies by putting in place closer monitoring, enforcement of regulations, adequate communication.
  • Benefit from advice, support systems and networks to identify best practices and recommendations.
  • Follow UNEP recommendations for handling COVID-positive household waste.

Read the report

Melissa C. Keyes