Long queues and strict measures as recycling centres begin to reopen

Reports of traffic jams and long queues have emerged as household waste and recycling centres (HWRCs) across England begin to reopen.

Queues formed at 10 waste and recycling centres across Hertfordshire after they reopened yesterday (11 May).

It was announced last week that sites in Berkhamsted, Bishop’s Stortford, Harpenden, Letchworth, Potters Bar, Rickmansworth, Royston, Stevenage, Turnford and Waterdale would all reopen, but only for “essential visits”.

However, local reports state there have been “huge queues” building up at the entrances of the sites, with people are facing waiting times of over two hours at one site.

As expected, we’re seeing some long queues at the ten Household Waste and Recycling Centres that have reopened this morning

The centres are operating on a one in, one out basis, with a limited number of vehicles allowed within the centre at any one time.

In a tweet, Hertfordshire County Council said: “As expected, we’re seeing some long queues at the ten Household Waste and Recycling Centres that have reopened this morning.

“Please only visit if it’s essential, and check the live information on queues on our website before you set off.”

Traffic delays were also reported near Bournemouth’s HWRC at Millhams, as well as Southampton, Windsor and Maidenhead, according to BBC News.

Bournemouth Christchurch and Poole Council implemented additional “traffic measures” around its recycling sites to mitigate congestion, reports state.

Booking system

Derby City Council says it will implement a booking system for its Raynesway HWRC and that residents will not be permitted to just turn up at the site as they previously did.

A booking system will be in place to ensure safety of customers and site staff. A time and date must be booked before driving to the site.

If a time slot hasn’t been booked, residents will not be granted entry, and will be turned away.

The booking system will be implemented through MiPermit, an online system currently used by the council for parking payments in the city. This will be the first time MiPermit has been used for HWRC bookings in the UK.

I know a lot of people will be pleased to see the site back up and running, but we need people to use this as a very last resort

Councillor Jonathan Smale, Cabinet Member for Public Protection and Streetpride said: “I know a lot of people will be pleased to see the site back up and running, but we need people to use this as a very last resort. Government guidance is clear that HWRCs are to reopen if it’s safe to do so.”

“Please remember that if you turn up without booking, not only will you cause delays for those who have, you will also be turned away from the site, so please, do not visit without booking first.  If the system is correctly used, there will be minimal queues, and people should be able to safely use the site.”

Warwickshire will begin opening its HWRCs from next week (18 May) and will also use a booking system for residents.

County environment spokeswoman Heather Timms said: “Reopening on May 18 is a huge step towards resuming something approaching a normal service.

“When this happens, I ask that customers are patient and show kindness and respect to each other and staff.”

Strict measures

Last week, Kent County Council revealed that all 18 centres will reopen across the county, less than two months after they closed as a result of coronavirus lockdown.

Residents will also have to book slots either online or by phone. Once on site, a raft of new rules will be in place, including:

  • Users will need to observe the social distancing measures when visiting the sites.
  • Site staff will not be able to help unload and dispose of waste.
  • A maximum of two people can leave each vehicle to dispose of bulky items without site staff help
  • If you do not have bulky items, only one person can leave the vehicle.
  • Traffic management will be in place at all sites.
  • Some sites may block off every other parking bay to enforce social distancing.
  • You will not be allowed onto the compactor platforms when a member of staff is operating machines.
  • You will need to follow site guidance, which may include wearing gloves and masks.
  • If you wear either gloves or masks, you’ll need to take them home for disposal to avoid the risk of cross contamination.

Kent County Council says security will be in place at the centres, including Automatic Number Plate Recognition, CCTV and body-worn cameras; and sites may need to close temporarily for cleaning with no warning.


Defra last week published new guidance for local authorities on how they can safely re-open their Household Waste and Recycling Centres (HWRCs) during the coronavirus outbreak.

Councils in England are being encouraged to open sites to avoid the build-up of waste in homes and businesses and reduce the opportunity for fly-tipping – but only where social distancing can be maintained and the public and staff can be kept safe.

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

The guidance sets out how local authorities could manage access and the number of people who are able to be on site at any one time.

If possible, waste should continue to be stored safely and disposed of using regular council collections.

HWRCs in Scotland however will be remaining closed for the time being, and in Wales, councils are preparing to open some of its recycling centres. 

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