DORSET Council has warned there may be "challenges" in maintaining waste collection levels as the coronavirus crisis progresses.

The council says to that end services have been prioritised according to relative importance.

Cllr Tony Alford, the authority's portfolio holder for regulatory services, said: "While the current coronavirus (COVID-19) situation is certainly unprecedented, Dorset Council’s waste services are well prepared for the challenges we will face for the foreseeable future regarding bin collections and waste disposal.

"We have a statutory duty to empty people’s bins, and it is vital that this service is maintained throughout the current crisis.

"We’re confident Dorset Council's and our contractors' business continuity plans are robust and will ensure rubbish will continue to be collected and disposed of."

Because some bin collection workers may have to start to self isolate, or become ill as the virus spreads, reduced staffing levels are expected to occur.

However, the council says it has a "robust business continuity plan" to cope.

As staff levels reduce, employees will be redeployed to cover higher priority work.

The highest priority will be given to food waste collection, followed by rubbish collections, business waste collections, recycling collections, garden waste collections, street cleansing and bin deliveries, in that order.

Council employees working on other non-essential services will also be trained to help with waste services if absentee levels become too high across waste depots.

A council spokesman said: "If, after these measures are introduced, we need to introduce more radical measures we can mix waste types that are currently collected separately (e.g. food with rubbish in a single vehicle, rather than two separate vehicles requiring fewer staff)."

If garden and business waste collections are disrupted, added the spokesman, staff will work out how subscribers are compensated for collections they did not receive and contact them directly when services eventually return to normal.

Cllr Alford said: "I’d like to thank all our front-line waste collection and cleansing employees, and contractors, who I know will be working even harder than usual to ensure these vital functions continue over the coming weeks.

"To help them, residents can also try to reduce the amount of waste their household produces at the kerbside and show patience and understanding if their collections are disrupted.”