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Calls to reopen city’s waste recycling sites as councillors and fire service report increase in number of domestic waste bonfires

Residents battling covid19 deserve clean air, say Greens, citing links between covid19 mortality rate and air pollution

Greens have called for stronger action to be taken to lower air pollution in the city amid the covid19 pandemic, including a plea for the Labour Council to swiftly reopen the household waste and recycling sites to prevent people burning uncollected household waste.

Greens say that decisions taken by the council to halt bulky waste collections and close the household waste facility should be reconsidered, amid news that the garden waste service will soon be restarted, and continued concerns that some residents are resorting to burning uncollected waste that releases fumes and smoke.

The East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service has recently reported an increase in garden bonfire incidents ‘getting out of control,’ as more people burn domestic waste.

This also follows the Conservative Government Communities Secretary, Robert Jenrick, asking councils to draw up plans to reopen waste and recycling centres. As coronavirus ‘lockdown’ measures continue, Greens say steps such as reopening the city’s recycling waste sites would be welcome help for residents who have no storage for uncollected household waste, but must be managed safely, including through adequate provision of PPE for any staff. Welcoming news on a potential restart of the garden waste service, Greens say residents could also benefit from further information about how to manage, repurpose or reduce waste particularly if recycling sites remain closed, such as in Scotland, where many local councils are being supported with advice from ‘Zero Waste’ groups.

Green Councillor Pete West, opposition spokesperson for Environment, Transport and Sustainability, commented:

“With the impact of air pollution on our health well known, residents across the city deserve clean air. Sadly with tips shut, and bulky waste collections stopped, we are seeing an increase in waste being burnt in garden bonfires. This is not only a fire hazard but also a major contributor to toxic air pollution. And while a ‘nuisance’ bonfire can be reported to Environmental Health, we need the Labour Council to urgently clarify their plan to support recycling at this time and reopen the city’s waste and recycling sites, and to promote these as the most appropriate ‘last resort’ for those who cannot repurpose or recycle at home.

“While we welcome news that garden waste collection can be resumed, we have called for the council to reopen the recycling sites with social distancing measures in place, so that some waste can be disposed of and recycled properly. This has been done in other councils, and proof of residence could help to prevent concerns about so-called ‘tip tourism.’

“It is important to recognise that while some waste collection services have been reduced as a result of lockdown, there are many residents who do not have adequate space to store waste and recycling, particularly for long periods. Residents are also keen to see further information on the status of bulky waste collection in the city. The opportunity also presents itself to better signpost residents to information about reducing waste at the source, as many are already seeking to do.  Without a proper response, the concern is that we will see more bonfires and fly-tipping too.”

Greens have also called on the Labour Council to issue stronger messages on the danger of activities such as bonfires, in order to encourage people to consider the impact of fumes on nearby residents.

Recent research suggests there are strong links between levels of air pollution and covid19 mortality rates, with one study suggesting that even a small increase in toxic air particles (known as particulate matter) leads to an increase in coronavirus deaths.

With the covid19 virus affecting the lungs, and the impact of poor air quality on general health already known, Greens argue it is vital that the council seeks to permanently address the causes of air pollution, including through exploring how lower emissions from cars and other activities could be sustained when lockdown ends.

Green Councillor Sarah Nield, opposition member on Health and Wellbeing Board, commented:

“Those with pre-existing lung and heart conditions are especially vulnerable to air pollution, and in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic– a respiratory related virus – we should do everything we can to reduce the pollutants we produce for their sake, but also for our own.

“As we face the pandemic together, work to improve the quality of the air we breathe will be crucial.  Communities across our city are taking huge steps to improve people’s chances of survival from covid19, and actions from the council – such as clear information on the impact of bonfires, car emissions and wood burning stoves, and progress towards safely opening the household waste and recycling sites – can support this.

“However, it’s painfully evident that repeat failures to tackle air pollution have exacerbated the current virus. Separate studies from the UK, Italy, Germany and USA are now linking high levels of air pollution to elevated mortality rates from covid19.

“Slow progress on toxic air pollution cannot continue, if we are to truly safeguard people’s health now, and into the future.”

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