Home working sparks North Yorkshire recycling centre surge

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A local authority which has seen a surge in demand at its Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) says the number of people who continue working from home could shape the service’s future.

In response to about 60,000 extra visits to the county’s HWRC’s over the last year, senior North Yorkshire councillors and officers have approved a continuation of a ‘meet and greet’ approach to customer service and a limit on trailer size, subject to review over a 12-month period, to manage demand.

The move would see social distancing inspired standards continue despite the expected national lifting of social distancing restrictions next month.

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The authority says it is clear that the pandemic has normalised remote work, but it remains uncertain how a hybrid way of working from home and the office will impact on the amount of household waste that is generated.

Carnaby Waste Recycling Plant.Carnaby Waste Recycling Plant.
Carnaby Waste Recycling Plant.

A report to an executive members’ meeting states: “Many organisations, for example, are looking at their previous office based working practices and see benefits of agile working.

“A higher degree of home working is likely to be responsible for more people visiting the HWRCs during the pandemic and is set to continue, so whilst social distancing may no longer be required changes to the HWRCs service may still need consideration.”

Meet and greet was introduced at the busier of its 20 HWRCs during the pandemic to control the number of vehicles on site. Customer advice at the site entrance includes the site layout and the facilities available to reuse, recycle and compost waste.

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There were no limits on the size of trailer before the introduction of Covid-19 measures, but due to concerns over large trailers filling skips and blocking them from other users, alongside moving around the sites, only trailers less than 2m in length will be allowed to use the HWRCs.

Resource Recovery Centre at Seamer Carr.Resource Recovery Centre at Seamer Carr.
Resource Recovery Centre at Seamer Carr.

Councillor Andrew Lee, the authority’s executive member for Open to Business, said it was likely a surge in DIY projects during the first lockdown had impacted on the figures and that there would be at least slightly fewer visits to the centres as people get out more.

However, he said it remained unclear as to what extent homeworking would be a long-term trend.

Referring to the soaring number of waste centre visits, he said: “People are obviously spending more time at home, which is generating more waste, so we think it’s people’s changing behaviour. It’s a case of waiting and seeing what the trend is as the country unlocks further.

“We are doing a pretty good job of recycling across North Yorkshire. Just because extra waste is being generated at home doesn’t mean to say that it’s not going to be processed in the correct way.”