With the loosening of Covid-19 restrictions, councils are weighing up the benefits of booking systems at their household waste recycling centres (HWRCs).
Booking systems were introduced at many HWRCs following the reopening of facilities during the first lockdown. Slots were limited to enable easier social distancing, among other reasons.
At the time, critics such as Simon Clark, the minister for regional growth and local government, expressed fears booking systems could lead to increased fly-tipping (see letsrecycle.com story).
However, the systems have proved popular with some councils. Redcar and Cleveland borough council has made the booking system at its Dunsdale Recycling Centre permanent, whereas West Sussex county council and Caerphilly county borough council are looking at introducing systems of their own.
Cllr David Renard, environment spokesman for the Local Government Association (LGA), is a fan. His organisation represents councils in England and Wales. He told letsrecycle.com: “Local authorities have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic to keep HWRCs open for the public to dispose of any waste that can’t be collected at home. Significant volumes of material have continued to flow into these sites suggesting that the public have adapted to these measures well.
“As well as maintaining these services, councils have continued to communicate with their residents to keep them informed of any changes to the service. Fly-tipping is a crime and there are no excuses to justify it, least of all the use of a booking system at some HWRCs.
“In my local area of Swindon, the booking systems have proven incredibly popular as people are able to get in and out with reduced queuing times when compared with before.”
The Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC) represents local authority recycling officers and those working in similar or related posts. The organisation’s chair, Carole Taylor, told letsrecycle.com she believed it was up to individual councils if they wanted to operate their booking systems.
Most councils which introduced booking systems had seen a smoother running of HWRCs with less queuing so customers can get through the site quicker, she said.
“LARAC believes it is up to individual councils as to whether they employ booking systems or not. Some want to continue with benefits as I have described as they have found that to be a successful system,” she said. “Others may have other policies such as restricting by waste type, or by car reg numbers, in order to reduce numbers of customers visiting at any one time and enable social distancing to be maintained. It really depends on individual site circumstances as to what policies are best for that particular site.”
Ms Taylor said it was difficult to link the change in HWRC policies with an increase in fly tipping, especially during the last year as figures are not yet confirmed. She said there should be no reason for people who would usually use a HWRC to fly-tip if they followed the procedures that were in place.
Redcar and Cleveland
Redcar and Cleveland borough council has made the booking system at its Dunsdale Recycling Centre permanent. The system was introduced in November and extended over the Christmas period to try and reduce queues on the main highway.
The council says it was well received by residents and staff members, as well as contributing to a safer environment for those who visited.
Councillor Barry Hunt, cabinet member for neighbourhoods and environment at the council, said: “Since introducing the booking system, it has allowed us to proactively manage the number of vehicles visiting the site at any one time, which has been particularly helpful during the pandemic where we’ve had to limit numbers on the site to allow for social distancing.”
West Sussex county council has responded to current and anticipated demand at its HWRCs by bringing forward summer opening hours and trialling a booking system from 29 March at six of its busiest sites in Bognor Regis, Crawley, Horsham, Littlehampton, Shoreham-By-Sea and Worthing.
“Over the past few weeks we have seen a surge in visits to our sites”
The trial is designed to allow residents to dispose of their recycling and waste safely, limit their waiting times at HWRCs and help reduce traffic disruption.
Slots can be booked up to 14 days in advance and residents will be able to make one trip in a week.
Deborah Urquhart, West Sussex county council’s cabinet member for the environment, said: “While we remain under national lockdown conditions residents have been encouraged to store their recycling or waste if it is safe to do so. However, our sites have become increasingly busy recently and we anticipate that the lifting of lockdown restrictions may exacerbate this.”
She added: “Over the past few weeks we have seen a surge in visits to our sites, which has unfortunately led to some being closed temporarily in order to reduce the impact on local roads. This meant that valuable police time was used up diverting traffic and assisting site staff. By trialling the new booking system we hope to avoid this.”
When recycling centres in Wales reopened to the public following the first national lockdown, Caerphilly county borough council was the only one of five local authorities in the Gwent area not to introduce a booking system.
Now, the council has proposed to introduce such a system. A public consultation was held between 6 and 10 March on the proposals for the county’s six HWRCs, which would allow residents to book online or over the phone.
The council says it is now collating the feedback and will consider how the services at its HWRCs could be reshaped to meet the needs of its residents.
Councillor Nigel George, Caerphilly’s cabinet member with responsibility for waste and recycling services, said, “We are seeking the views of our residents on this proposal. It is important to us that residents form a key part of the decision-making process. The proposals will enhance the service we are able to offer and limit the queue time for residents.”