Local authorities which have put booking systems put in place at Household Waste and Recycling Centres (HWRCs) have said they have been successful, despite criticism from some ministers and residents that they are “excessive”.
Last month, the minister for regional growth and local government Simon Clark warned of “excessively tight restrictions on public access” at HWRCs, in an open letter on the 28 June.
He expressed fears that this could lead to increased fly-tipping and harm that comes from rubbish piling up in or near homes (see letsrecycle story).
In his letter, Mr Clark specifically mentioned the introduction of a limited number of pre-booked slots as an excessive measure, and added that councils should extend access where this can be safely done and keep measures under review.
Since then councils have begun loosening restrictions at HWRCs but booking systems to manage demand have been proving proving popular.
Such systems see councils introduce ‘slots’, which residents must book in advance before visiting an HWRC.
Councils argue this enables them to ensure social distancing is adhered to and avoid long queues, but some residents have reported difficulties in booking a slot.
Cllr David Renard, environment spokesman for the Local Government Association (LGA) said: “The surge in demand for waste services and compliance with COVID-19 measures has seen councils’ costs for environment and regulatory services increase by more than £100 million between March and May. Any measures, such as booking systems at household and waste recycling centres, that have been put in place are there to keep residents and staff safe in accordance with government guidelines.”
Hampshire county council introduced a pre-booking system for all HWRCs, which are run by Veolia, in the area on the 15 June. It confirmed to letsrecycle.com that they are now “successfully offering 35,000 slots through the booking system per week”.
Councillor Rob Humby at Hampshire county council said: “With Covid-safe measures in place at HWRCs, capacity has inevitably been reduced, and so we have had to change the way people visit the sites to manage demand.
“The booking system is achieving what it set out to do, eliminating the lengthy traffic queues which were causing problems for others. I do appreciate this is an extra step people need to take to visit an HWRC and would like to thank Hampshire residents for their patience.”
The council also introduced more booking slots on 26 June in order to meet demand, after local reports suggested that residents couldn’t book a slot.
Preparations are under way to increase booking slots available at Hampshire’s Household Waste Recycling Centres.
Advance booking is also being increased so slots can be booked up to seven days ahead https://t.co/C2mMKzjCZb pic.twitter.com/vnTiDEujJW
— Hampshire County Council (@hantsconnect) June 29, 2020
Suffolk county council implemented a booking system when its HWRCs reopened on the 14 May, and told letsrecycle.com that it has received “many positive comments and feedback” from residents.
Paul West, cabinet member for waste, said: “The phased re-opening of Suffolk’s Recycling Centres through the use of a booking system has been a great success.
“Introducing appointments has helped us to manage the initial demand when the sites first reopened and support social distancing measures for users and staff. This week we announced that vans, trailers and trade waste can now book appointments online to dispose of their rubbish.
“We have had many positive comments and feedback from visitors to the sites.”
Following concerns that a booking system may increase fly-tipping due to lack of access, Suffolk said they are “closely monitoring the situation.”
The council also recently entered ‘phase three’ of their reopening, which allows for vans, trailers and trade waste to book a slot to visit nine of the eleven HWRCs which are open.
Birmingham city council followed suit and implemented a booking system on 8 June after seeing waiting times in excess of two hours before the system was introduced.
“The key message for everyone is clear – if you do not have a booking to visit our HRCs, please do not turn up and hope to get in”
Councillor John O’Shea said: “Nobody wants to have to wait up to five hours to dispose of their waste and this booking system will help us end that frustration, triggered by the unprecedented circumstances we face as a result of the pandemic.
“The key message for everyone is clear – if you do not have a booking to visit our HRCs from June 11, please do not turn up and hope to get in. You will be turned away”.
Mark Powell, General Manager at Veolia, which runs HWRCs in Birmingham, added: “We understand the pandemic has presented some challenges in the way people dispose of their waste and recycling across the HRC sites and continue to work with Birmingham city council to explore alternative ways to improve access to our services.”
Visiting an HWRC was defined in law on 14 May as an acceptable reason for a resident to leave their home during the lockdown in England (see letsrecycle.com story).
After facilities were first opened, waiting times exceeding 90 minutes were recorded as residents rushed to dispose of waste generated during the lockdown.
Many councils which had reopened were offering a very limited service, but in recent weeks, in line with government advice, HWRCs across the country have begun to “return to normal”.
According to the latest survey results from ADEPT, for the week commencing 22nd June, around 23% of facilities in England are running without disruption. A further 50% are running with “moderate disruption” and the the remaining 27% are operating with moderate to severe disruption.
In Scotland, HWRCs reopened with restrictions in place on 1 June, in Wales on 26 May and in Northern Ireland on 18 May.