The Impact of COVID-19 on Commercial Waste in London

14th July 2021

ReLondon, a partnership of the Mayor of London and the London boroughs to improve waste and resource management and transform the city into a leading low carbon circular economy, commissioned us to, firstly, assess commercial waste arisings in London boroughs since COVID-19 began, and secondly, review how economic trends would impact volumes in the future. Many local authorities have altered services during this time after seeing a drop in commercial waste and an increase in household waste.

Using the two reports we provided, relevant authorities have been able to: plan resources to meet the needs of the service during the months ahead; justify reduction in income from commercial waste collections; identify businesses that may be more resilient to the impact of COVID-19, helping to target new customers; and learn from how other local authorities have adapted their services during the pandemic.

Using methods we used to produce national compositional estimates for municipal waste for WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme), that draws on Defra (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) waste data, and ONS (Office for National Statistics) data from the BRES (Business Register & Employment Survey) survey, we produced a baseline assessment of current commercial waste tonnages in London. The baseline model estimates the composition of waste and provides a breakdown by sector.

We then assessed key drivers of future economic trends to estimate future arisings of commercial waste in each borough by sector and material. We interviewed key stakeholders as part of the process including local authorities, private waste companies, and commercial waste customers which gave us an understanding of what impact COVID-19 has had on the network, both in terms of services provided and how requirements have changed since March 2020.

We carried out this process in July 2020 to provide a forecast for commercial waste tonnages in London for 2020/21 and then again in October 2020 to provide a projection for 2021/22.

Sarah Craddock, Senior Adviser at ReLondon, said: “COVID-19 has been an uncertain time for all businesses in London, and has significantly changed the waste they produce. This has in turn had an impact on the local authorities and private waste companies who collect that waste. These two reports combine economic insights with data modelling to demonstrate how each business sector, and waste type, are being affected by COVID-19; and provide an invaluable localised picture for the commercial waste sector to understand how the impacts of COVID-19 vary across the capital.

Bill Sinfield, Head of Waste & Recycling Operations at the London Borough of Islington, added: “I really found both COVID-19 Considerations for London borough commercial waste service reports very useful. They are extremely informative, and they provide support for local authorities with the detailed information which they include and are further supportive in the recommendations which they provide. The information includes key data which covers many aspects of a commercial waste service and the impact that COVID-19 has had on the commercial waste sector.

“The recommendations within the report are fundamental points of commercial waste recovery and retention during COVID-19 and associated restrictions which have been applied – Islington has utilised some of the recommendations in forming Islington’s COVID-19 commercial waste recovery plan which also forms part of Islington’s overarching longer term commercial waste strategy.” 

Featured image: ReLondon