A date for the resumption of garden waste collections in Reigate & Banstead is awaited, with nearly four out of five councils in England now providing the service at some level.
Reigate & Banstead Borough Council suspended garden waste collections from 30 March, in a bid to focus on higher priority services during the pandemic.
On Sunday evening (10 May) the leader of the council, Cllr Mark Brunt, tweeted that the service would resume as soon as the council had capacity, with refuse and recycling teams currently fully occupied on collecting household waste and recycling.
The council has said that sickness and self-isolation are affecting staff numbers, with employees drafted in from other teams to help in waste collection efforts.
Household waste and recycling are also said to have increased during lockdown to levels only seen at Christmas, and there has also been an uptick in fly-tipping.
Reigate & Banstead’s approach has been in line with Government guidance, which ranks the collection of household waste and fly-tipping as “high” priority, dry recycling as “medium” and garden waste as “low”.
However, last week only 22% of councils in England reported they had needed to withdraw their garden waste service, an improvement from a month ago when the figure was 38% (week commencing 30 March).
Nearly two-thirds of councils (60%) said last week that they ran their garden waste collections at normal levels.
Local residents have been querying on social media why Reigate & Banstead is different from other nearby councils, including Mole Valley.
A Reigate & Banstead spokesperson replied to one resident: “I appreciate and understand other boroughs’ services may be running normally.
“However, as a borough we must prioritise the health and safety of our staff and residents.
“Sadly, we have crew members who are currently self-isolating and following all government advice.
“During these times, we have taken the decision to prioritise the collections of household waste.
“Only when it is safe to do so we will re-introduce the services for garden waste.
“I do understand the inconvenience this is causing, and I thank you for your understanding during these unprecedented times.”
Residents in Reigate & Banstead who sign up to the garden waste service normally pay £65 a year for a fortnightly collection.
The council has said that customers will receive a discount of £20 at their next renewal, unless they renewed in April or May when the £20 will instead be refunded.
From Monday 11 May garden waste, along with black bag rubbish, is now being accepted at Earlswood and some other Surrey County Council tips – but with Surrey County Council advising on its website that residents must only use them “if they absolutely need to”.
Cllr Mike Goodman, Surrey’s cabinet member for waste, earlier advised Surrey residents to “make the most of” garden waste collection services rather than use Surrey’s tips.
Reigate & Banstead has issued reminders during lockdown not to burn garden waste as the smoke may cause difficulties to residents, including Covid-19 sufferers.
The borough council has amended a range of services during the pandemic, including re-purposing its Harlequin Theatre in Redhill as a distribution centre for vulnerable residents.
RBBC update on its waste services
Surrey County Council coronavirus info (including helpline)