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Coronavirus (COVID-19): updates and advice, including help if you are struggling financially

Coronavirus: Household recycling centres and banks - frequently asked questions

When will household recycling centres reopen?

Nine of our ten household recycling centres (HRCs, or "the tip") re-opened with a restricted service on Monday 11 May. Sherborne HRC remained closed at the time due to highway safety concerns, but re-opened on Tuesday 2 June.

Can I take everything I need to get rid of? Can you tell me what waste is considered "essential"?

Journeys to an HRC must only be undertaken if your waste or recycling cannot be stored at home safely or disposed of safely by other means.

By this we mean the waste cannot be stored without causing risk of injury, health or harm. If you can temporarily store your waste or recycling in a way that does not pose a risk to yours or others safety or human health, then you should continue to do so.

Although all usual waste and material types can be dropped off, please bring a maximum of 2 waste types per visit (e.g. garden waste and black bag waste).

This will help people stick to social distancing guidelines by reducing the amount of movement around the HRC and help us receive as many visitors as possible by cutting down time spent on site.

Personal waste (such as used tissues) and disposable cleaning cloths can be stored securely within disposable rubbish bags. These bags should be placed into another bag, tied securely and kept separate from other waste. This should be put aside for at least 72 hours before being put in your usual external household waste bin or taken to an HRC.

Will opening hours be the same?

Yes. All sites will open from 9am – 6pm, 7 days a week, which are the normal opening hours for this time of year.

Sites may however need to close at short notice. For example, if it is no longer safe to keep them open, if containers are completely full, social distancing measures are not being properly observed, or they are having an unacceptable impact on surrounding roads through queuing traffic.

Will all sites be opening again or just some?

All sites, excluding Sherborne, will be opened on the same date and will operate on the same days and times (daily, 9am to 6pm).

Sites may be closed at short notice during the day, especially if containers become full and/or queuing traffic starts to cause widespread disruption to local roads.

Why did Sherborne's Household Recycling Centre not reopen at the same time as the others?

Sherborne HRC shares a Waste Transfer Station, which is where the waste at the kerbside goes after collection. More planning was required to prevent queuing HRC traffic disrupting bin collections by obstructing vehicles on the access road. This issue was resolved with the aid of Sherborne Town Council and the site reopened on Tuesday 2 June.

When is the best time to visit?

Due to the unprecedented circumstances, we don’t know.

March to May are typically the busiest months of the year at HRCs anyway. But with sites closed for weeks during this peak time and the amount of people staying at home due to the pandemic – resulting in more waste through gardening, clear-outs, DIY etc. - means we are anticipating even larger numbers of visitors than usual, especially in the first few weeks after re-opening.

Also, due to social distancing restrictions, we won’t be able to accommodate the same amount of people in the same time frame as we normally would.

Therefore, please only travel to a household recycling centre if it is absolutely essential (i.e. you cannot continue to store your waste at home safely). If you do choose to visit an HRC, please expect extensive delays.

Please don’t arrive on site early, in order to reduce impact on local highway and surrounding homes and businesses, especially as some nearby residents may be trying to get to work before 9am. Before 9am we will be trying to move waste from the site and cannot do this if there is traffic congestion.

Why can’t you open for longer if it’s going to be busy?

We cannot keep them open for longer as employees need time outside of these hours to make sure containers are emptied and ready for use, and that sites are tidy and safe to access.

This will help ensure we can accommodate as many visits as possible from our residents, as safely as possible.

We must also consider the opening times of the places where materials from site are taken once containers have filled – these haven’t changed. If we keep sites opened beyond regular hours, we will have nowhere for the collected waste to go, creating delays and disrupting access.

Do I have to book to visit?

No. Access to household recycling centres will operate the same as usual, but with anticipated extensive delays.

Queues will be long – what are you going to do to help with this? Won’t this cause fly-tipping and congestion in the local area?

We are advising residents to travel to an HRC only if their visit is essential and they cannot continue to store their waste at home safely. Delays are expected to be severe. The sites cannot operate as they normally do due to the social distancing measures that will be in place, which will add to delays.

Someone will be in place at the entrance to each site to speak with visitors and advise on waiting times and procedures on site. If a queue is too large, some vehicles may be turned away and asked to return later.

Traffic management plans have been devised to help reduce disruption on the local highways as much as possible. Any waste left outside an HRC, in the queue, at the roadside etc. will be treated as fly-tipping and subjected to the same investigation and potential fines and prosecution as any other fly-tip.

I am vulnerable/super-shielded person, can I visit an HRC?

The following people should not visit an HRC:-

  • those who are extremely vulnerable and are remaining at home for shielding purposes

  • those who are symptomatic with coronavirus (COVID-19)

  • those who are in a 14-day household isolation

We would urge vulnerable people to continue to follow central government guidance on self-isolation. While we will have social distancing restrictions in place on site, you may wish to ask a non-vulnerable family member or friend to take your waste to an HRC if it is essential.

You should not visit the HRC if you are unwell, as you should be following the 7-day self-isolation guidance, or if a member of your household is unwell and you should be following the 14 day stay at home guidance.

Can I walk my waste into the site if there’s a big queue or I live close-by?

Not currently. Our sites do not have dedicated pedestrian access, so are not safe to enter by foot.

A security guard will be at each site entrance to strictly manage vehicles on a one-in, one-out basis to ensure social distancing is managed.

Queue jumping by parking nearby and walking with waste will not be tolerated, as it is potentially dangerous and unfair to those that have waited and causes unrest.

How are you making sites safe to attend?

  • social distancing measures will be in place to help visitors stay 2m away from other people
  • all HRCs are being managed to make sure visitors move around the site as little as possible and leave as quickly as they can
  • site employees will be disinfecting handrails and container lids regularly. However, please wash your hands before and after you leave the site.
  • employees will be able to direct you, but cannot assist you physically at this time to reduce contact with items brought onto site
  • every other parking bay will be blocked off to make sure social distancing can be observed whilst you unload and to reduce overall number of people on site at any one time. Once all parking spaces are filled, a security guard on site will operate a one-in-one-out system
  • only one person should leave the vehicle to unload waste – a maximum of 2 if unloading heavy items
  • one user at a time on the steps – unless being helped by someone from the same vehicle
  • there are no reuse areas, and you will not be able to purchase or donate items for reuse. This is to reduce contact with items and discourage visitors from staying longer than necessary
  • contactless payment only for chargeable materials so employees and visitors can avoid contact with cash
  • we ask that you don’t bring children with you if possible. If you have no alternative, please ensure they always stay in the car
  • please respect direction from staff. They will be working very hard to keep the site safe and ensure as many as possible recycle their waste in a day

Will there be people on site to help me?

Not manually, no. There will be employees controlling access to the site and others who will be able to provide guidance and advice. However, they will not be able to handle your waste in any way.

Please load bags and containers so that you can carry them on your own. If you have an item that you cannot manage alone, you may allow another person to assist you from your vehicle.

Will everything on site be the same?

Containers may not be where they normally are. Please take time to look around when you arrive on site and be patient with others. If in doubt, please ask a site employee for advice.

Can I take items and materials that are usually charged for when they’re dropped off?

Yes. However, you will only be able to pay using a contactless method. Cash will not be accepted.  

Do I need to wear PPE to attend?

PPE (gloves, face masks etc) is a personal choice – there aren’t any requirements for visitors to use it on site. However, we strongly advise washing your hands before and after you visit the HRC.

Will I be able to use the reuse area?

No, as reuse areas will be closed. Browsing items in the reuse area would encourage visitors to stay longer than necessary when we’re trying to protect public health, discouraging unnecessary handling of items and ensuring as many people can use each site as possible.

Why aren’t you using a booking system? Or odd/even vehicle registration number plates?

After much discussion, it was agreed that a booking system would create more problems than it would solve. We wanted to make the system as simple as possible to reduce issues on site and give all our residents a fair chance to deposit essential items.

The varied sizes and layouts of our sites in Dorset also means a one-size-fits-all booking system would be complicated to develop and manage. Just getting it set-up could have caused delays in opening the sites when some people need them as soon as possible.

Odd/even number plate access schemes have been proven to be ineffective at controlling the amount of people who might attempt to visit a site, as they do nothing to increase capacity at the HRC or reduce people’s willingness to queue. They merely change who is queuing on any given day, rather than affect overall visitor numbers.

Reducing administration on arrival means we can accommodate as many people as possible at a time when we can’t operate at maximum capacity, at one of the busiest times of the year, leaving employees to make sure sites are safe and tidy.

Why aren't the recycling banks in car parks being emptied? Can I just leave my items there if the bank is full?

Recycling bank emptying schedules are being impacted in the same way as our other services during the pandemic. In fact, some of our banks (including our clothes ones) are emptied by kind volunteers, many of which are classed as vulnerable by the government at this time and are rightly staying at home, so we have even less resource here than usual.

If you have items you’d usually take to a bank, please keep hold of them until services return to normal. Do not leave bags of items next to banks. Dumping these next to recycling banks (or on top) is considered fly-tipping and banks being full is no excuse, especially at this time. Items are also likely to left out for a long time, meaning they’ll be damaged by the weather and will likely not be reused or recycled.

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