Survey on the impact of the COVID-19 on municipal waste management systems

ACR+ ran a survey targeting municipal and local authorities (or their waste operators) to understand and assess the impact of the COVID-19 on their waste systems, in particular regarding the services provided, the quantities collected, health and safety measures, finances and communication to users.

The survey, combined with the collection of information and good practices, led to the identification of key trends:

  • Municipal waste generation decreased in most cities, with a significant decrease of assimilated waste generated by commercial activities, that did not compensate the increase of household waste linked with lockdown measures. Likewise, touristic areas could experience important decreases.
  • Municipal waste sorting performances could be maintained or even improved in many territories. However, waste authorities that had to decrease the collection service for selective collection experienced significant decrease.
  • Local authorities had to prioritise waste services to adapt to the changes of waste generation and shortage of staff; civic amenity sites were closed and on-demand collection interrupted in many territories, sometimes leading to fly-tipping.
  • The measures taken for the collection of potentially contaminated waste were quite different from one city to another. Some cities set specific collection routes for households with COVID-19 cases, while other only imposed specific precautionary measures.

The full report is available here. Make sure to also consult COLLECTORS Guidelines for implementation and Policy recommendations, that now includes specific sections on the COVID-19 pandemic.

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This survey is conducted in the framework of H2020 COLLECTORS. This project's mainstay being to share knowledge between territories, it only took one step to use its strength and expand the exchange of experience to understanding and overcoming the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.


The COVID-19 pandemic has already had tremendous impacts on the waste sector. At first, while the pandemic was progressing and lockdowns imposed in many countries, public authorities and municipal waste operators had to rapidly adapt their waste management systems and procedures to the situation. This is when ACR+, replying to requests from its members, started collecting data on the different systems and solutions implemented with the aim of gathering and exchanging practices. This work is available on a page dedicated to what can be called the first phase, during which the priority was to provide a fast and safe answer to the questions raised by the pandemic. A summary of the trends observed amongst these practices during March is provided in the infographic below.

As the lockdown or other restrictive measures are progressively lifted, a second phase is starting and new challenges are appearing. Public authorities and municipal waste operators do not have to act to face an urgent situation but they now have to deal with the impacts of the different measures of the so-called first phase and with the necessity to re-assess the situation. Adaptation is needed once more, this time to search for stabilized operation. The crisis is also moving along the value chain reaching new actors such as recyclers. As it did during the first phase, ACR+ is gathering data on the situation in different countries to monitor the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on different waste management systems. The aim is to gather and exchange practices, being aware that situations are diverse and dependent on the national and local constraints as well as means available.

In several countries, surveys are conducted (at national, regional or local level) to assess the situation and provide a summary and statistics on waste collection and treatment activities during the lockdowns. Currently data are available for the city of Milan, Catalonia, the Balearic Islands, England, Ireland, and France. Such information is indicated with the following pictogramme: analysis

Note: the information is published as we received it, with the addition of the necessary sources and edition if required. Translations are made by our team and are not under the responsibility of the issuing authority or organisation. Should you want to contribute, please send an email to Paolo Marengo (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

Last update: 18/11/2020

ACR 2020 03 Waste management covid19 graphSummary of observed trends regarding municipal waste management during the COVID-19 crisis in March 2020 (click on the picture to enlarge it or download it as a pdf).


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