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West Berkshire garden and food waste collections to be suspended

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Crews dealing with higher levels of recycling and impact of Covid-19

GARDEN waste collections in West Berkshire are to be suspended for two weeks to allow “hidden heroes” to catch up with a backlog of recycling.

Councils across the country are experiencing significantly increased volumes of waste after Christmas, combined with a number of collection crews self-isolating.

Around 5,300 recycling collections in West Berkshire, equivalent to just under eight per cent of households, remained outstanding as of Tuesday.

As a result, garden and food waste collections will be suspended from Monday, January 18, to Friday, January 29, to help crews prioritise rubbish and recycling.

Waste manager at West Berkshire Council, Kofi Adu-Gyamfi, said there had been around a 20-per-cent increase in recycling tonnage, on top of the normally higher levels after the Christmas holiday.

“This year in particular, because most people were at home in Tier 4 and subsequently going into a total lockdown, there has been a build up,” he said.

“Also because people have switched to online shopping because they have been advised not to go to places that are not essential, with this comes lots of packaging waste – lots of cardboard and glass bottles as well.

“Our contractor [Veolia] has done their best to get in place a contingency to keep the service going”.

Mr Adu-Gyamfi said that the collection of general refuse was being completed without any significant disruption.

He added: “Unfortunately that leaves us with the challenge of recycling and we are doing our best to get on top of it, however we are getting a backlog. Packing quickly fills up a vehicle and it’s taking longer than usual.

“Things like glass, because of the weight, is taking a physical toll on the staff. I have had reports of people finishing in tears because of the strain of it.”

The council is asking residents whose garden waste is due for collection on or after January 18 to not put their green garden waste bin out until the service can resume, from February 1.

Council leader Lynne Doherty (Con, Speen) said that “the hidden heroes” who had been working throughout the pandemic now needed the suspension to catch up.

Mrs Doherty said the council was not expecting any further measures to tackle the backlog.

“I think the one thing it will impact on is Christmas tree collections. Everyone will effectively miss one collection,” she said.

Executive member for the Environment, Steve Ardagh-Walter (Con, Thatcham Colthrop & Crookham), said: “We have received tremendous support from West Berkshire residents over the past few weeks and I want to thank everyone for their understanding during this challenging time.

“We have not taken this decision lightly to put garden and food waste collections on hold and understand that some residents may be disappointed by this service disruption.

“Our contractor’s collection crews have continued to work hard throughout, keeping our waste services running and we would like to thank them for doing a great job.”

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