‘All bins are full!’ Herts waste crisis shuts eight recycling centres
PUBLISHED: 11:29 25 April 2018 | UPDATED: 11:41 25 April 2018
Waste recycling centres across the county were full to overflowing, causing the service to shut down early at the weekend.
Centres in Harpenden, Hemel Hempstead, Letchworth, Potters Bar, Rickmansworth, Royston, St Albans and Ware all faced closures.
Recycling centres shut early on Sunday and by Monday, St Albans waste recycling centre was still closed.
On Sunday at 11am, Potters Bar resident Geoff, 54, drove to Potters Bar waste recycling centre on the Cranborne industrial estate with car oil to dispose of, only to find a hand-drawn sign saying: “This site is closed until further notice. All bins are full!! Sorry for any inconvenience. Thank you.”
Staff, who reportedly had not been allowed to go home or sit inside, were outside the gates advising people of the situation.
“Lots of people had been turned away,” said Geoff. “They were sending away cars.”
A spokesperson for the council said: “The last two weekends have been the first show of improved weather for some time which led to extremely high demand.
“As a result, a number of closures took place as the facilities were unable to cope with the level of demand.
“This increase in site usage was also reported by our neighbouring authorities.”
In a meeting on March 13, the Community Safety and Waste Management panel at Herts County Council noted that part of the problem has been triggered by some district councils charging for garden waste non-household waste collection.
Welwyn Hatfield borough council started charging £35 per year for garden waste collection in January 2017, in a move that resulted in a drop in recycling levels.
Unauthorised commercial waste was also blamed and is considered “not sustainable within the current budget”.
Waste management contractor Amey, which serves Hertfordshire, plans to introduce an electronic permit system limiting vans, trailers and other commercial vehicles to 12 visits per year.
Currently, after 12 visits, people can reapply at no extra cost for a new permit as part of a paper-based system that the council says is open to abuse.
A council spokesperson said: “Research has shown that 12 visits each year is more than sufficient for 99 per cent of residents issued with a permit, and this will help us prevent the minority of users that are abusing the system with frequent reapplications and overuse, most likely with commercial waste, which should not be paid for by the taxpayer.
“One of the recommendations is that the council work with Amey to introduce an electronic system, to make it better for the site user.”
But residents have also pointed to how the service is run by Amey.
Staff have reportedly been told to stop assisting members of the public with breaking down materials, leading to inefficiently stacked materials and wasted space.
Residents have also seen recycling centre staff direct people to put plastics in the recycling section just to save space.
Geoff added: “Why aren’t Amey providing the service they tendered for?
“What’s the value for money for the council tax payer?
“There’s such an environmental loss to that.”
A spokesperson for Amey said: “Employees have not been instructed not to help the public, however we would encourage the public to ensure their waste is as compacted as possible.
“Occasionally at times of very high demand, waste is mixed if some containers are full.”