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London councils burn recycling due to HGV driver shortages

Written by on 11/09/2021

Councils in south London have been sending recycling waste to be incinerated because of a shortage of lorry drivers.

Croydon and Sutton councils said recycling at some blocks of flats would be burnt because the shortages were causing issues to bin collection schedules.

The councils are part of the South London Waste Partnership, which is managed by contractor Veolia.

A national shortage of HGV drivers has been blamed on the pandemic and Brexit and has also affected food supply chains and other products.

Waste that is collected in south London is sent to the Beddington incinerator and this will now include recycling waste in some boroughs.

Peter Underwood, a Green Party candidate for elections in Croydon next year, claimed it had been going on for a while.

“The council spends more time trying to defend the contractor rather than improving the service. They have admitted it now because of the HGV shortages,” he told Sky News.

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“They are taking a shortcut and the easy option. Residents are furious and feel let down by the council.

“The incinerator in Beddington burns over London and burning plastics will make the air worse.”

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Sutton Council said it had “regrettably” stopped picking up recycling in communal bins so they could “collect the overwhelming majority of recycling in the borough”.

A spokesperson said: “There is a national shortage of HGV drivers which has severely reduced the number of bin and recycling crews available across Sutton and beyond.

“We have taken the decision to protect refuse and recycling collections across the borough rather than reduce the collection frequency as some other councils are doing.

“Regrettably, this means we have temporarily stopped picking up recycling from communal bins.

“This is because they are often contaminated with non-recyclable waste, meaning we need to send a second crew to pick up and dispose of the waste that cannot be recycled.

Critics say the protocol has contributed to bare supermarket shelves. File pic
Image: The transport secretary says HGV driving tests will be relaxed in order to hire more drivers. File pic

“By doing this, we can continue to collect the overwhelming majority of recycling across the borough.”

A spokesperson for the South London Waste Partnership, responding on behalf of the boroughs, added: “Since June our recycling and refuse collection crews have been working hard to minimise disruption caused by a severe nationwide shortage of HGV drivers.

“Co-collecting recycling and refuse from communal flats is one of the first business continuity measures that is implemented; of all the possible things we could do, this one has the least impact on our recycling rate as unfortunately much of the recycling we collect from communal flats is contaminated.”

Councillor David Renard, transport and environment spokesperson for the Local Government Association, said: “Fast inflating HGV driver salaries in the private sector risks exacerbating issues in the public sector, with the rises potentially creating a retention as well as a recruitment problem for councils and their contractors.

“We want to work with government to address these short term staffing issues to ensure people across the country can continue to receive the services they rely upon.”

The HGV driver shortage has already caused disruption in supermarkets, with shoppers facing food shortages, according to Ian Wright, the chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation.

FILE PHOTO: A man stands next to shelves empty of fresh meat in a supermarket, as the number of worldwide coronavirus cases continues to grow, in London, Britain, March 15, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls//File Photo
Image: Supermarket shelves have been empty in some parts of the UK due to the driver shortage. File pic

The farm to fork supply chain – which transports local, high quality, organic and seasonal produce – was missing around half a million of the four million people that usually worked in the sector, according to Mr Wright.

He said part of this was due to EU nationals leaving the UK as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit.

Many businesses have reported major problems in recent months, leaving some shop shelves empty, or forcing restaurants to remove items from their menus.

In order to increase the number of drivers, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said HGV driving tests would be relaxed to allow 50,000 more to be taken ahead of Christmas.

 Sky News

© Sky News 2020

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