The amount of household recycling collected has nearly doubled in some areas during the pandemic, pushing up the costs of keeping services running, local councils have said.

Eight in 10 English councils reported a rise in the volume of paper, cardboard, plastic and glass being collected since the national lockdown began, according to data from the Local Government Association (LGA).

Half of councils said they were collecting up to 20% more material for recycling than normal, with a third dealing with 50% more and some noting a 100% rise – on a par with levels usually experienced at Christmas.

The surge in the amount of household waste and recycling to collect has increased costs to councils, alongside extra cleaning of vehicles, staff shortages due to Covid-19, and disruption caused by more cars parked on roads.

The LGA warns that councils face a funding gap of more than GBP5bn by 2024 to maintain services at current levels – a figure that could double amid the economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Councils have kept waste and recycling services running during the Covid-19 outbreak, working hard to keep staff safe and deal with high volumes of household waste normally only seen at Christmas,” said Cllr David Renard, LGA environment spokesman. “This has led to additional cost pressures, which must be met in full for councils to be able to maintain services and cope with the increase.”

Among those buckling under the pressure are Gateshead council, which saw the total tonnage of recycling collected between April and July this year increase by 23% compared with last year, with more cardboard being recycled than ever before – up 250%.

In Devon, recycling rates rose 12% between April and June of this year, with 1,000 tonnes more glass bottles and jars and 1,300 tonnes more card collected than during the same period in 2019. This is despite Devon already having one of the highest recycling rates in the country, at 56%.


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