Fly-tipping in rural areas has increased by 300% since the lockdown, new analysis has discovered.
Research by the universities of Portsmouth and Southampton show that almost all household waste recycling centres had been closed in rural communities in an attempt to halt the spread of coronavirus.
This has been compounded by an increase in home clearances and DIY projects, and the closure of charity shops.
The analysis highlights the need to move away from a 'linear economy', where products are disposed of at the end of their lives, to a 'circular economy' where all waste is recovered and returned to manufacturers as a resource.
Professor Williams of the School of Engineering at the University of Southampton said: 'This pandemic has been a wakeup call to governments and the waste sector to ensure that supply chains and markets for recyclates are diverse and resilient.
'Our current waste management system will need to evolve to be resilient to the impacts of these rare, extreme global events to create a successful circular economy.'