COVID-19 causes massive increase in household rubbish volumes

11 Mar 2021

The surge in people continuing to work from home following last year’s COVID-19 restrictions has generated an extra 850 garbage trucks of waste since July last year.

A review of the rubbish collected by City of Newcastle shows total general waste (red lid bins) tonnage has jumped by more than 8 per cent, while recyclable waste (yellow bin) is up 2 per cent and green waste collections 21 per cent.

Kerbside bulk waste collections have also risen by 3 per cent. This follows a 19 per cent spike in 2019/20, when Newcastle first went into lockdown to combat the spread of COVID-19. 

The increase in people working from home as well as surging food home deliveries has generated almost 37,000 tonnes of domestic, bulk and green waste this financial year. This is an increase of more than 5,000 tonnes, or around 850 trucks loads, compared to the same period last year.

City of Newcastle Waste Manager Troy Uren said an increase in time spent at home during the pandemic and the restrictions around dining out had caused the huge increase in domestic waste. Analysis of the figures show there was no significant change in the tonnage of commercial waste taken to the Summerhill Waste Management Centre over the same period.

“12 March will mark one year since the official declaration of the coronavirus pandemic. The lockdowns and restrictions driven by COVID-19 have affected every aspect of our lives, including the amount of time spent at home during the work week and on weekends, as well as our shopping behaviours and food consumption patterns,” Mr Uren said.

“A report by Infrastructure Australia has confirmed that domestic waste volumes have increased nationally by 20%, the largest single year rise ever. The report highlights soaring food waste levels and sizeable increases in paper and plastic packaging waste on the back of panic buying, takeaway food deliveries and increased online shopping. Single-use product waste has also risen as a direct result of COVID-19.”

Research published earlier this year forecasts a continuing explosion in home delivered food over the coming years. By 2024, the number of deliveries is projected to increase to 65 million from 27 million two years ago.

Bulk waste levels have also jumped as community members have used the lockdown periods to undertake clean-ups and carry out DIY projects around their homes, while green waste tonnages recorded a dramatic increase as a break in drought conditions and increased rain periods created ideal growing conditions.