Report by Local Democracy Service
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham believes that local recycling centres could reopen during the coronavirus crisis despite raising concerns.
Talks are ongoing between council leaders and the combined authority, which oversees 20 household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) on their behalf, and a decision could be made today.
Local authorities have been put under pressure from opposition groups after Wigan council – which has control over its own waste disposal – reopened its three sites last week.
But a poll by SUEZ, which is contracted to run HWRCs in Greater Manchester, found that not one council out of 128 surveyed considers a trip to the tip to be an ‘essential journey’.
This is despite the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ (Defra) urging councils to keep HWRCs open ‘only if social distancing guidelines can be adhered to’ amid growing reports of fly-tipping.
Mr Burnham fears that reopening all of Greater Manchester’s tips could contradict broader lockdown measures and cause problems for the police.
When asked at a press briefing on Tuesday if HWRCs would be reopening imminently, he said: “It’s possible but I wouldn’t say that it’s imminent.
“We’re about to have a direct discussion about this amongst leaders and I think there are different views on the topic. The government guidance is not particularly clear.
“There’s a problem here with the pressure to reopen which is, as far as I understand, it’s not in keeping with government advice to pack your car full of rubbish and go to a HWRC because currently that’s not considered an essential journey.
“There’s also a Greater Manchester Police view that needs to be considered which is if there’s massive crowds at various centres that might represent other challenges they would need to deal with.”
Liberal Democrat councillors in Stockport have joined party colleagues in Oldham and Conservatives in Trafford in calling on their town halls to reopen HWRCs immediately.
Cllr Mark Hunter, leader of the group, said: “While the health and well-being of all staff members remains our first concern, other local authorities have been able to re-open their tips for public use and we believe that – with proper safeguarding measures in place – it should be possible for Stockport to do the same.”
In a blog post on April 14 Defra, in response to increases in fly-tipping during lockdown, urged people not to put things they would normally recycle or take to the tip in their rubbish bins.
The statement said: “We are also encouraging councils to keep their HWRCs open to ensure that bulky waste can continue to be disposed of, but only if social distancing guidelines can be adhered to on site.”
“If a local HWRC is open, then as per the laws and guidance currently in place, members of the public should only take their waste to a HWRC if the journey is ‘essential’, i.e. because the build-up of waste in the home may pose a risk of injury or to health.”