COVID-19 Update – 8 May 2020 – HOUSEHOLD WASTE RECYCLING SITES REOPENING

I have been sent the information below.

“As promised in the earlier update, here is the detailed plan for the safe opening of our HWRCs.

We anticipate that the booking system will go live on the website today and we anticipate high demand.

Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) – summary of plans to re-open

Current Position/Context:

On 5th May, DEFRA published their updated guidance for waste services to say:

Journeys to HWRCs 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. No other reason for the journey would be considered a legitimate purpose. 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 must do so. but DEFRA also said:

Staff working at HWRCs should not be expected to determine if visitors to the HWRCs are making a legitimate journey or are bringing items that can or cannot be stored safely at home.

So, this document sets out the outline plans/strategy for re-opening of sites in light of this new advice.

In line with the other West Yorkshire councils, we are working on it being possible from 11th May.

Considerations for re-opening:

  • What will the demand be for?

DEFRA guidance published on 5th May says: “Householders should only take waste to a HWRC if it cannot be stored safely at home and no alternative disposal options are available. By this we mean that the waste/recycling could not be stored on their property without causing a risk of injury, health or harm to the resident or other members of their household or harm to public health and amenity”.

Our public message when sites re-open will be that residents should only be bring items they can no longer safely store at home, using the DEFRA definition/guidance above.

Despite the above advice, we are expecting sites to be exceptionally busy, as has been the experience elsewhere as sites have started to reopen.

What sites will we be able to open first?

Due to issues with capacity, location, managing health and safety issues, dealing with highway access, highway hazards and general logistics we will need to open sites on a phased basis.

We will, therefore, initially re-open 5 of our 8 sites; these being Kirkstall, Seacroft, Meanwood, Middleton and Pudsey.

Once these are open we will then focus on Wetherby which we would expect to open shortly afterwards, and if all goes to plan, just a few days later than the others. Once Wetherby is open we will focus on Yeadon which we would again expect to follow on quite quickly with bookings able to made at least 2 days beforehand. The Otley site is our most problematic in regard to meeting social distancing requirements due to the topography and size/lay out of the site, as well as particularly challenging access issues; and so this will be the last site to open as more significant work with highways and consultation with local ward members is required to be confident that this site can operate safely and effectively.

  • Operational considerations and proposed plans:

Q: In order to manage demand, should we operate a time slot booking system and/or post code access by days of week/specific sites?

A: We do not think a post-code system is practical and would create unmanageable risks (unnecessary contact/conflict) at the sites when having to enforce/administer/control access at the gates/in queues. This is based on our belief many more residents would simply just turn up, either deliberately ignoring the instructions or in ignorance. It makes comms more complex too.

We initially looked to open the sites to access to all on a controlled queue basis – with communications emphasising the fact people should not be travelling unless their need is within the DEFRA list of what is reasonable to do so for, and that they should check the current waiting times on the website first. However, following site and traffic assessments, highways officers concluded there is very limited queueing capacity even outside the main sites (for example none for Meanwood) and this is therefore a high risk option in managing issues outside the sites;

So the preferred option being developed is:

 to have an online booking system whereby residents choose an hour slot in which they must turn up to be allowed in the site. They will then be allocated a 15 minute slot within that hour. Admission to the site would on by checking the vehicle registration to the list of bookings for that hour. The number of slots per hour will be different by site and we will be able to increase/decrease. Anyone not booked in would be turned away and advised to book online. This would also help us reinforce the messages about what the site should be used for and to help build in some downtime on sites to undertake safety checks/cleaning and shift handover.

We will initially reopen the sites on extended hours – open 7 day a week, 8am to 8pm – until we feel demand has dropped sufficiently and we can return to 8am-6pm and remove the need to have a booking.

Q: So how will the queuing system work?

A: Inside the site boundaries the queues will be managed by the Waste Management Service. To ensure sites can operate safely and adhere to social distancing measure for both staff and customers, a limited number of cars will be admitted to each site at any one time. New site plans have been developed to allow social distancing on sites, one way systems will be coned and marked out, new walkways will be lined, and new signage to direct and inform customers will be erected.

Outside the site will be managed by Showsec. They will provide 2 staff plus a supervisor per site. There will only be queuing allowed for cars booked in for that hour. Although we believe that will be minimal as the number of slots we have allocated per hour should allow for cars to be managed mostly within the site gates/boundary.

Anyone not booked in at all, or arriving early or late will be turned away. This should minimise queues outside the site and frustrations with waiting times etc., reducing the risk of social distancing being broken and issues for local residents. Highways signs will be erected at strategic places on key roads to make clear entry is booking only.

Q: How will you ensure social distancing is maintained?

A: The site rules and queuing system will be designed so that customers are not allowed out of their car until told to. Once at the unloading bays and out their cars, customers will be required to maintain social distancing. Signage along the queues and in the site will make clear this requirement.

To help manage and ensure safety at the unloading bays, no trailers or vans will be allowed until further notice.

In addition we will make clear to customers at the time of booking and on site that staff are not able to assist them and are there only to ensure safe operation of the site.

Whilst the demand remains high, we will suspend the charges to residents for inert waste so no contact needs to be made for this purpose.

We will challenge customers where it is clear the customer is bringing commercial waste (and therefore illegally disposing of that waste and holding up genuine residents wanting to use the facilities).

Payments for commercial waste will be card or account only at Kirkstall (normal opening hours). If demand becomes too great to safely cope with, this service will be suspended until queues die down.

Anyone breaking social distancing rules will be refused permission to unload their waste.

To assist staff in adhering to social distancing, additional outdoor shelters will be provided on sites to allow for the one member staff in at a time rule in cabins/welfare facilities and to enable staff to seek occasional shelter in inclement weather.

Cleaning of site cabins and staff facilities will be undertaken by professional service on every shift change.

Q: How will you staff the sites?

A: To enable extended opening hours (8am to 8pm) we will run the sites on a 2 x 6 hour shift. We will review this each week and when demand is manageable, we will reduce back to normal seasonal hours of 8am to 6pm.

Additional staff are being trained on the machines to ensure we have the ability to respond to increased waste volumes and opening hours.

Additional staff are being deployed through the council’s flexible allocation policy.

Q: How will this affect the re-use organisations we partner with?

A: The HWRC sites will take/salvage reusable items until the on-site containers are full during this period as the charities we have agreements with are all closed and are be unable to collect or accept donations. Revive can store some goods from Kirkstall and Seacroft for a few weeks whilst their stores remain closed and will make collections from those sites as and when possible. They are currently exploring the potential to re-open the shops given that demand for low cost items is as important as ever. Seagulls paint company are considering what is possible but have concerns whilst any changes to the level of lockdown restrictions is still uncertain. We will explore options to help transfer and store at least a selection of the smaller but valuable items brought to the sites at an off-site storage facility.

Q: Are you working with Unions on these proposals?

A: Yes. We had a first discussion with the 3 main unions on 24th April and have had several meetings since. We detailed what the plans would look like, covering many of the FAQs in this document.

We have shared and amended Covid19 adapted Risk Assessments and Safe Working Instructions.