Somerset Waste Partnership (SWP) has announced this week that it is suspending garden waste collections for six weeks from Monday 2nd August.
SWP says it has “reluctantly” made the decision so staff can be redeployed to support rubbish and recycling collections.
It adds that waste authorities in many parts of the country have taken similar action in recent weeks because of the national driver shortage.
“All subscribers are being emailed or written to and will automatically have their subscriptions extended by eight weeks – the extra two weeks in recognition of the disruption at a busy time of year,” says a spokesman.
There is no need for subscribers to do anything, but more information can be found at somersetwaste.gov.uk/gardenwaste-suspension – an online form on that page is the quickest and easiest way to make contact.
Subscribers should not contact their district council. If they are unable to use the online form they can call this dedicated contact number: 01823 589900 (available 9am-5pm Monday to Friday).
SWP waste collections have been seriously disrupted in recent weeks as a result of limited staff due to the national LGV driver shortage, Covid pressures and other local factors.
Recycling collections have been particularly badly hit, with many missed collections and crews not able to return to missed collections soon enough. Any missed recycling collections are currently not being completed until the follow week’s collection day.
“Suspension of garden waste does not mean rubbish and recycling collections will return to normal, but it should help maintain them and minimise any extra disruption,” adds the spokesman.
“Garden waste collections will continue as usual until and included Friday 30th July. The temporary suspension also includes the garden waste sack collections.”
“Unfortunately, we cannot return for missed collections after that date and collections of SWP garden waste sacks cannot be booked during the suspension.”
“If your garden waste bin is already full and you cannot take the contents to a recycling site, please store it, lid closed, until the service resumes.”
“Extra garden waste capacity is temporarily available at Somerset’s 16 recycling sites. Anyone disposing of garden waste this way is encouraged to avoid the busiest periods and instead visit at the typically quieter weekday times around 1-2pm and 4-6pm.”
Please check the queue cams covering nine of the busiest sites: somersetwaste.gov.uk/recycling-centre-queue-cams/
What to do with garden waste:
It may not be convenient for all customers but, where possible, please consider:
• Reduce: Mow and prune less this summer.
• Mulch: Use grass cuttings as a layer over soil to retain moisture and reduce weeds.
• Compost: More on home composting, including a subsidised bin offer, here: somersetwaste.gov.uk/home-composting
• Recycle sites: All 16 Somerset recycle sites take garden waste.
Please do not put garden waste into rubbish or recycling containers.
The service is scheduled to start again from Monday 13 September.
Sarah Dyke, Chair of Somerset Waste Board, said: “This is not a decision that SWP has taken lightly and I know this will frustrate a lot of people.”
“We, like many authorities, are in a really difficult and unprecedented situation with the national driver shortage and continued impact of Covid, in terms of more waste to collect and, more recently, self-isolations.”
“The Board is following the situation closely and will be making sure that SWP and its contractors are doing everything they can as soon as they can to get services back to where they should be.”
“In the meantime, please bear with the crews who have been working flat out throughout the pandemic collecting the extra waste we have all been producing.”
Residents are urged to report any missed collections – online using the My Waste Services menu at www.somersetwaste.gov.uk if possible – as this will help make sure no-one is missed on consecutive weeks.
The national driver shortage is a long-term issue made worse by Covid, which has delayed driver training and testing, and the departure of many EU drivers.
Somerset’s hard-working crews have been collecting around 20% more waste throughout much of the year. That makes it harder to complete rounds and means they have been working extended hours for a long time to keep up.
Progress is being made, but the recent reopening of non-essential retail has increased demand for drivers and recruitment is especially difficult in Somerset because it is home to many distribution centres.
Crews are also coping with temporary depot arrangements in Taunton and congestion hotspots.
SWP carries out more than 400,000 kerbside collections every week. Most are still happening without a hitch, despite the heightened levels of waste and crews having worked frequently extended hours and Saturdays for more than a year.