Tips should reopen with social distancing measures in place, Government tells councils

5 May 2020, 16:11

People queue in their cars outside a household waste recycling plant in Manchester
People queue in their cars outside a household waste recycling plant in Manchester. Picture: PA

By Megan White

The Government has told councils there is no legal reason to keep tips closed and they should reopen with social distancing measures in place where it is safe to do so.

Updated guidance, published on Tuesday, said reopening waste and recycling centres will help prevent fly-tipping and the build-up of rubbish in homes.

It says local authorities should try to open dumps where possible if social distancing can be maintained and the public and staff kept safe.

Closure of tips and curbs on some waste collections, along with more waste being generated by people embarking on spring clean clear-outs, DIY projects and gardening, has raised concerns over an increase in fly-tipping.

Measures councils can put in place include disabling alternate parking bays, introducing markings to enable a two-metre distance and alternating the days vehicles can attend, depending on whether their car number plate ends in an even or odd number.

The guidance says householders should only take waste to a household waste and recycling centre if it cannot be stored safely at home and no alternatives for disposing of it, such as bulky waste collections, are available.

Under the terms of the lockdown, householders can go to the tip if the waste in their home presents a risk of injury or a risk to public health or the local environment.

But it also says staff at waste and recycling centres should not be expected to determine if visitors are making a legitimate journey, or whether they can store items safely at home - and the police cannot help in the matter.

Environment Minister Rebecca Pow said: "Maintaining crucial waste services while protecting public health remains a top priority during these unprecedented times, and I commend our councils on the superbly efficient job they are doing in keeping waste collection services running.

"We are publishing this guidance to help local authorities re-open their recycling centres over the coming days and weeks.

"This will ensure that more waste can be properly disposed of and we avoid the likelihood of fly-tipping."

Local Government Minister Simon Clarke added: "Many residents have not been able to dispose of all of their excess or bulky waste.

"That is why we are helping councils to reopen these sites, where safe to do so, in a planned and organised way over the next few weeks."

David Renard, environment spokesman for the Local Government Association, said councils were keen to open tips as soon as practicable and decisions would be taken by individual councils.

"This will be a gradual process over the next few weeks and based on whether they have enough staff, social distancing measures are in place to protect workers and members of the public, and waste staff are given personal protective equipment to reduce the risk of infection and provide reassurance.

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"Councils will introduce measures to keep staff and customers safe, for example by managing visits through pre-booked time slots," he said.

Residents should check on their local authority website before setting out whether their waste and recycling centre has reopened, and should only go there if it is essential.