Councils considering role of booking systems

With the majority of social distancing requirements ending across the UK, councils have begun to examine the role of booking systems at household waste and recycling centres (HWRCs).

CA sites might consider booking systems just for weekends, WISH suggests

Systems were introduced last year in large swathes of the country as part of efforts to reduce the number of people on site and adhere to social distancing regulations.

HWRC booking systems have been under review across the UK

However despite the vast majority restrictions ending, many have opted to continue with the systems full time, while elsewhere it has been scrapped.

Those in favour of a system say it enables councils to ensure non-residents can’t use the sites, and also keeps numbers down on busier days, whereas concerns over fly-tipping and ease of access for people not online have been raised by those against.

WISH guidance

The Waste Industry Health and Safety (WISH) Forum published its latest information document for Covid-19 and waste management activities this week, which suggested that booking systems could just be operated on weekends when sites are busier (see letsrecycle.com story).

Its guidance explained that for workplace health and safety, the onus has shifted from legally-required rules to a more guidance-based approach.

On HWRCs it is suggested that vehicle restrictions might be removed but a policy of not assisting members of the public with wastes to reduce social contact between employees and the public might be maintained.

London

The majority of councils in London seem set to keep the systems in place as part of efforts to manage waiting times on site.

Cory’s Smugglers Way MRF, where a booking system trial is underway

The North London Waste Authority opted to retain a booking system at all of its facilities, after a survey of 906 residents saw 43% of respondents says booking system improved their experience, with a further 34% saying it had no impact.

Other councils in the capital have decided to move to a booking system this year despite the regulr easing of restrictions.

The West London Waste Authority moved to a full-time booking system for all its sites in Brent, Ealing, Hounslow and Richmond.

Meanwhile, the Western Riverside Waste Authority, which runs facilities for Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth and Wandsworth, launched a trial in February.

In a statement given to letsrecycle.com, a spokesperson said a full evaluation of this will take place in September.

They said: “The two main aims of introducing the trial Booking system are to reduce the queuing at peak times and to prevent non-residents from using the HWRC, particularly as some neighbouring authorities had introduced booking systems during the lockdown to aid social distancing and many of their residents were using our facility instead of their own since it did not require pre-booking.

Our trial will run until the end of September when a full evaluation of the trial will be reported to WRWA’s Members, who will then decide if it becomes a permanent fixture.”

Cambridgeshire

We will be reviewing the ongoing use of the booking system – Cambridgeshire county council

Further north in Cambridgeshire, the county council has said it will be reviewing its systems next week to see if they are to be kept on full time.

Opposition councillors had raised concerns about fly-tipping, but the council says this hasn’t increased in the 15 months the system has been in place.

A spokesperson said: “We introduced the booking system to manage demand at selected Household Recycling Centres in Cambridgeshire where queueing outside the sites was causing problems on the surrounding highways.

“We will be reviewing the ongoing use of the booking system in the week commencing 16th August.”

Scotland

In Scotland, the majority of councils rolled out a system, and while some have no plans to review this yet, Fife council says it will scrap them next month as the country removes Covid related restrictions.

Fife Resource Solutions, which manages recycling services on behalf of the council, initially  implemented the booking system on 1 June 2020 to ensure that the recycling centres, in terms of social distancing and traffic management, could be safely re-opened in the face of the pandemic.

The council says this brought additional benefits to the community, helping prevent the illegal deposit of commercial waste, which was costing council taxpayers in Fife over £1 million per annum.

Convener of the council’s Environment and Protective Services sub committee Cllr Ross Vettraino said: “[We] put the health and safety of staff and the community above all else. Consequently, any necessary measures that are in place to that end are to be welcomed.

“While endorsing health and safety measures, however, the sub-committee recognises that they must not be kept in place any longer than is necessary, which is why the sub-committee is looking to have access to the centres eased as soon as possible.”

Systems remain in place for a number of other councils, including Aberdeen, Moray and the Highlands.

 ‘Benefits’

Giving an overview of the situation, Lee Marshall the chief executive of LARAC, said measures put in place have shown there can be benefits, and there has been positive feedback.

Lee Marshall is LARAC’s CEO

“Each local authority is assessing what will work for their sites going forward and that may mean some keep booking systems in place, but maybe with more slots opened up.

“There has been positive feedback from users of sites about booking systems and how that has meant their time at the site is shorter and better with reduced queuing.”

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