Rebecca Pow MP and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) made a virtual visit to Sheffield to find out more about the city’s success in keeping all five HWRCs open during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to thank the Council and Veolia for providing the model for authorities across the country to reopen their facilities.
Sheffield is one of the only authorities in the country to have kept all of its HWRCs open for the whole of the lockdown period, despite the challenges of safety and social distancing.
After successfully managing its five centres for the last 12 weeks of restrictions, the city was looked upon as a beacon for the practices put in place to adapt, continue operating and allow residents to dispose of their essential waste safely.
Over recent weeks, officers from Sheffield City Council and its contractor Veolia, assisted DEFRA in producing guidance for other authorities who had closed facilities and were looking to reopen.
Minister Pow and DEFRA’s Deputy Director of Resources and Waste, Chris Preston met online with Sheffield’s waste representatives and carried out a virtual tour. Cllr Mark Jones (Cabinet Member for Environment, Streetscene and Climate Change), Gillian Charters (Head of Waste Management at Sheffield City Council), Richard Keith (Operations Manager for Sheffield’s HWRCs) and Steven Newman (General Manager at Veolia) took part in the Minister’s visit.
Councillor Mark Jones said: “The fact that we have been able to keep our five Household Waste Recycling Centres open across Sheffield throughout the Covid-19 pandemic is a fantastic achievement, and this has been thanks to the continued hard work and commitment from our workforce, and for the patience shown by the vast majority of residents when using the sites during these difficult times.
“I’m extremely proud that these efforts have been recognised nationally and that Sheffield is leading the way for other authorities to recommence services. We have had many challenges along the way and have had to overcome and adapt to very fast-moving circumstances. Sharing best practice helps us all to learn and hopefully our contributions to the national guidance will make this easier for Councils, and their staff and residents across the country.
“I will personally be working more closely with DEFRA to identify opportunities to collaborate and improve our services.”
During the meeting Minister Pow said: “You are one of our models and we’re so grateful for everything that you have done and that you’ve managed to keep running throughout the entire lockdown period. I know how really helpful you’ve been to our team, especially when we were at that point of drawing up the guidance for other local authorities, and giving all your views and suggestions and tips and hints. So, I want to thank you hugely for that because you’ve been absolutely invaluable to us.”
Chris Preston, DEFRA’s Deputy Director of Resources and Waste said: “Just to say you were a little beacon for us, because I know the sites are all slightly different. So, you’ve got traffic management problems in one area, you’ve got restricted access in others. It was quite good to reassure other local authorities because there’s a lot of pushback about re-opening. Sheffield was a really good example to be able to use and say, it’s got mixed sites, it’s got issues in some areas but it’s managing to do it.
“There’s a lot we can learn, which we did actually and Veolia were also very, very good in terms of providing advice to us so, it was very, very helpful.”