Recycling centres start to strain under increasing visitor numbers

Bridport House Recycling Centre

IT’S been over a month since Dorset Council reopened its household recycling centres (HRCs), better known as ‘the tip’, after they were closed in the early stages of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But there are now concerns that HRCs are starting to feel the pressure as restrictions continue to be relaxed and more people arrive to drop off their waste.

Interestingly, while most sites have been quietest at the end of each day, weekdays have seen significantly more visitors than weekends, with Mondays and Tuesdays particularly busy.

It’s also been noted that some visitors are making multiple trips each week, with a few reports of individuals visiting even more than once daily.

As a result, Dorset Council is asking HRC visitors to reconsider whether their “trip to the tip” is necessary or whether they can keep their waste at home safely until social distancing measures are relaxed, or they have enough waste to make the journey and queuing time worthwhile.

All ten of Dorset Council’s HRCs are running at 50% capacity as social distancing measures remain in effect, halving the amount of available parking spaces at each site.

To manage resulting queues, volunteers and redeployed council employees were brought in to “meet and greet” visitors, explaining how to negotiate the new site restrictions and helping prevent traffic problems.

But as more council services prepare to re-open and employees return to their regular roles, rising numbers of visitors at HRCs are starting to create access problems for residents and businesses.

Since May 11, there have been more than 113,000 visits to HRCs across the county. While visitor numbers were relatively low in the first few weeks, they have been steadily rising.

It is mostly garden waste, wood and black bag rubbish being dropped off. The average waiting time at HRCs has varied, although the longest waiting times have been around 90 minutes.

Bespoke arrangements have been made at Sherborne HRC to cope with queuing traffic, and other measures may need to be introduced at some sites in the coming weeks to address emerging access problems if visitor numbers continue to rise.

To help ease these pressures, Dorset Council is reminding potential HRC visitors of the following:

  • While HRCs are open, social distancing measures are in effect at all sites so they can only accommodate half the usual number of visitors at any given time
  • Therefore, please consider whether you need to drop off waste at an HRC at this time or whether it can be safely stored at home until restrictions are relaxed or lifted
  • If you do need to visit an HRC, try to avoid Mondays and Tuesdays. Late afternoons are quieter, but always be prepared to queue
  • Please sort your waste by type before arriving to reduce the amount of time on site
  • Remember to follow on-site signage and instructions

Cllr Tony Alford, Dorset Council’s portfolio holder for Customer, Community and Regulatory Services, said: “HRCs were reopened to help residents who could not store their waste safely at home. But while all sites across the county are operating, normal service has not resumed as we need to make sure visitors can socially distance at our HRCs, which restricts the number of people we can safely accommodate at any given time.

“There should be relatively few cases where waste cannot be stored safely for a week, so there is little need for people to visit more frequently. Therefore, please consider whether your journey to an HRC is essential now.

“If a safety reason justifies a visit to the HRC, it is better to arrive later in the day and avoid Mondays and Tuesdays. It would be regrettable to introduce further measures to ration access, so if we keep queuing traffic to a minimum, we can make sure as many people as possible can drop off their waste without causing issues for others.”

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