In late March of 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic caused a nationwide lockdown that prevented businesses, schools and other public facilities from operating. This confined most of the UK population to their homes. As a result, some major changes in our everyday behaviour occurred. In turn, these lifestyle changes impacted how much waste the country produced.
Waste Production During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The shutdown led to a significant drop in waste production, but the effect was not distributed equally. While waste production decreased, the amount of food and organic waste tended to increase. Additionally, the shutdown reduced recyclable materials, such as cardboard, paper, and food packaging.
A study examining the first three weeks of the shutdown reported on these trends and described the impact of the disruption on the UK’s waste management and recycling industries. In the UK, there are over 1,600 businesses that are involved in collecting, sorting and recycling waste. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, that number was expected to rise to 2,000 after 2020.
Increased Awareness of the Dangers of Waste
The COVID-19 pandemic changed people’s awareness of the waste they produce and the environment. With the heightened awareness and the changes in our behaviour, it was not long before governments and businesses began to respond.
This change was led by the British Recycling Association (BRA), which began efforts to make recycling an automatic process in the UK. This aligns with their goal of reducing the amount of waste thrown from homes and businesses.
The BRA campaign is called ‘Recycle More’ and will be the subject of a future article. However, some of the main objectives of the campaign include:
- Making recycling easier for everyone
- Encouraging people to recycle easier and more often
- Consulting with the government about implementing a penalty for throwing items into the trash
- Encouraging businesses and local authorities to ‘set the standard’ with their own recycling schemes
Some initiatives have been developed to make it easier to recycle in the UK.
The first is a mobile device app that can help people find their nearest recycling point. The second is a range of reusable shopping bags that can be purchased in supermarkets. The reusable bags are a product of the ‘Plastic Free Aisle’ initiative.
These changes are happening in response to a rise in concern over the amount of plastic in the ocean. With the COVID-19 pandemic causing a nationwide lockdown, plastic bag usage dropped to almost zero.
How We’re Rethinking Food Waste
In the weeks leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, many supermarkets pledged to reduce the amount of food waste they produced. Some supermarkets also pledged to stop selling ‘wonky’ produce, such as misshapen vegetables and fruit.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic itself had the biggest impact on the UK’s approach to waste. A study conducted by the University of Edinburgh confirmed that people became more aware of the environmental impact of their actions during the lockdown.
This was reflected in the COVID-19 pandemic because people began buying less food and growing their own in the case of a food shortage. The result was that supermarkets were left with excess food.
Supermarkets agreed to donate or sell these items cheaply to local charities or food banks.
How We’re Rethinking General Waste
Changes in how households dispose of their waste were also evident during the COVID-19 pandemic. Market research conducted by the University of Oxford found that many households made multiple trips to the recycling centre during the first few weeks of the lockdown.
This is because the COVID-19 pandemic created an urgent need to dispose of trash. This was due to the lack of waste collection services during the shutdown. Some households decided to store the garbage in their garages until the lockdown ended.
This highlights how homeowners could make small changes in their lives that have a huge impact on the amount of waste they produce.
How We’re Rethinking Recycling
In addition to making recycling easier, the COVID-19 pandemic led to a change in the UK’s approach to recycling. This was due to a shortage in recyclables and a lack of space for waste disposal.
Some local authorities imposed a charge for recycling. This discouraged people from creating ‘rubbish mountains’ and encouraged them to recycle more.
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted how recycling processes could be improved to reduce the environmental impact of waste. Many companies have started using new methods to remove plastic from their products and dispose of it more safely.
The changes and initiatives that have been put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic will be discussed in upcoming articles.
Changes to the Waste Industry
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK government called for a comprehensive review of the waste industry. This included the amount of waste that the country produces, the government’s role in waste reduction, and the environment’s impact.
The review resulted in a series of reports on the topics of waste and recycling. This included the final report from the review, which was published in late 2020. The report concluded that the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the problems with the UK’s waste disposal and recycling system. They added that the pandemic highlights the need for a permanent solution to these problems.
The COVID-19 pandemic also impacted how government and the private sector approach waste management. This approach has been evolving since the pandemic, with the Government now considering introducing a landfill tax.
How You Can Help to Reduce Waste
The COVID-19 pandemic brought wasteful living to the forefront of the public’s attention. As a result, many people began thinking about their waste footprint.
According to a survey conducted by the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), over three-quarters of people in the UK are now actively trying to reduce the amount of waste. This is up from 57 per cent in 2015. With everyone being more aware of our impact on the environment, the COVID-19 pandemic is also helping to create a less wasteful future for everyone.
The UK government is one of the governments working to combat waste and recycling issues. They have many plans to try and combat the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the environment. In addition to the initiatives that have been discussed in this article, the government is also investing in waste management and recycling technologies.
Enviro Skip Hire is your go-to waste management, skip hire and aggregates service for quick and convenient waste disposal in Congleton. We want to make hiring a skip easier for all our customers, from business to personal hire. We can help you with permits, a fast reliable service with skips available in all sizes. If you need skip hire services in Congleton, we’ve got you covered! Get in touch with us now and let us know how we can help!