Rubbish dump reopens for first time under coronavirus lockdown in bid to ease fly-tipping as government urges councils to keep recycling centres running

  • Councils shut household waste and recycling centres as the lockdown took hold
  • This was to focus on refuse collections from homes and to help social distancing
  • But more than half of councils have seen a surge in illegal landfill since lockdown
  • Defra said it wants councils to keep tips open so bulky waste can be disposed of
  • Wigan Council appeared to be first as it reopened its recycling centres on Friday
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

Rubbish dumps have been urged to reopen to counter the growing fly-tipping problem across the country.

Many councils shut their centres as the coronavirus lockdown took hold to focus on refuse collections from homes and to help social distancing.

Some local authorities have cut back on collections of bulky items and garden waste to ensure they can still collect ‘black bag’ rubbish despite staff shortages.

But more than half of councils have seen a surge in illegal landfill since the lockdown was enforced on March 23.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it wants local authorities to keep their tips open so bulky waste can be disposed of.

Wigan Council appeared to be the first to respond as it reopened the borough’s recycling centres for ‘single occupancy cars’ making ‘vital trips’ on Friday.

Yet a stream of vehicles was seen queuing up to dump their trash, with one woman appearing to throw a huge carrot into a skip. 

Wigan Council appeared to be the first to respond as it reopened the borough’s recycling centres for ‘single occupancy cars’ making ‘vital trips’ on Friday. Yet vehicles were seen queuing to dump trash, with a woman appearing to throw a huge carrot into a skip (pictured)


The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it wants local authorities to keep their tips open so bulky waste can be disposed of. Pictured: In Wigan on Friday

Wigan Council reopened its recycling centres but called for people to remain vigilant of the coronavirus

Disgusting pictures have emerged over the last few weeks of yobs fly-tipping rubbish such as tyres and mattresses.

Roadsides in Winchester in Hampshire, Manchester, Hertfordshire and Surrey were among those littered with waste.

Concerns have been raised in some areas about pressure on collections and the increase in fly-tipping as households produce more rubbish.

Some homes are creating more due to spring cleaning clear-outs and extra DIY and garden work while they are stuck at home.

It is understood Defra is expected to consult local authorities next week on reopening municipal dumps.

Disgusting pictures have emerged over the last few weeks of yobs dumping rubbish such as tyres and mattresses (pictured in Ware, Hertforshire)

Hundreds of tonnes of waste has been dumped across London since the Covid-19 lockdown

Local councils had closed down recycling centres and scaled back on rubbish collections, which came ahead of the rise in fly-tipping

A survey of dozens of local authorities by SUEZ recycling and recovery UK found most are not confident they can ensure social distancing and avoid traffic congestion at their tips.

The majority said reopening dumps so they can be safely operated will take somewhere between one to three weeks.

John Scanlon, chief executive of SUEZ, one of the UK’s largest waste and recycling operators, said the sector and local authorities are working to keep household kerbside collections going through the pandemic.

He added: ‘With these essential public cleansing services continuing, there isn’t a need for a large-scale reopening of household waste recycling centres and this current scenario is helping our key worker refuse staff to stay focused on doing their job so the NHS and other front-line services can stay working to keep us all safe.’

Many councils shut their household waste and recycling centres as the lockdown took hold to focus on refuse collections from homes and to help social distancing (pictured in Wigan)

Cars queue up to get to the recycling centre in Wigan as it reopened for the first time sine the lockdown on March 23

People lob their waste into the huge bins at the recycling depot in Wigan as the country remains shut down

Concerns have been raised in some areas about pressure on collections and the increase in fly-tipping as households produce more rubbish. Pictured: In Wigan on Friday

He said if there is a need to open a limited number of strategically placed centres to ease pressure on household collections, there will have to be limits on vehicles and people coming into the sites, with capacity halved to maintain social distancing.

They could be set up to accept only one or two critical materials such as garden waste, wood or general household waste, he suggested.

Access could be restricted by allocating households in different postcodes specific days to use their local dump, he added.

Mr Scanlon said: ‘If any do reopen, we urge the public that a trip to their local recycling centre under a restricted service should remain something that must be only strictly necessary and cannot be used as a diversionary trip or because people feel unable to responsibly store toys, clothes or electrical goods that they have decided to throw away as part of a lockdown-induced spring clean at home. 

A car packed with trash arrives at the recycling centre in Wigan on Friday afternoon as people clear out their rubbish


A survey of dozens of local authorities (pictured, Wigan) by SUEZ recycling and recovery UK found most are not confident they can ensure social distancing and avoid traffic congestion at their tips


The majority of councils (pictured at Wigan) said reopening dumps so they can be safely operated will take somewhere between one to three weeks

‘Non-essential clear-outs and associated trips to the HWRC must remain just that for now and be avoided.

‘With HWRCs and charity shops closed and bring banks full, it is time for people to think before they discard, and store or re-use items at home.’ 

Wigan’s recycling centres are to stay open for the duration of the lockdown despite some restrictions.

Traffic management will be in place at all sites and queuing outside the tips will be restricted, with residents asked to leave and return later if it is busy.

Leader of Wigan Council Councillor David Molyneux said: ‘The decision to reopen the recycling centres has been taken after listening to residents’ concerns on extra waste accumulation during the lockdown period.

‘We want to help those who have struggled with their waste during these tricky times so please also consider other users and our staff by following the rules laid out.

‘These measures are essential to ensure we protect you, our staff, and to help deal with the expected high volume of vehicles trying to access the sites.’

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