Council officials have revealed the “many issues” to be considered before recycling centres can reopen across Scotland – with worries reduced capacity could lead to members of the public confronting stretched staff.
It comes amid growing political pressure on the Scottish Government to allow tips to reopen “as soon as is practical” in the face of increased fly-tipping during coronavirus lockdown.
But now Aberdeen City’s waste services manager Kris Hultman has stepped into the debate, outlining the complex number of issues that would need to be considered before tips could reopen, such as how social distancing could be ensured in often limited space at the facilities.
He said on-site staff would be unable to help visitors as they normally might and revealed demand is expected to be “significantly higher than normal” due to the backlog built up during lockdown.
The council officer fears that would be “compounded” by the spring cleaning and DIY projects undertaken while the restrictions have been in place.
Many of the waste processors, such scrap metal outlets, are also closed, Mr Hultman said.
And with recycling staff redeployed to other council services, tips would be opened at reduced capacity, which he worries could lead to queuing on surrounding roads, frustrated visitors and an increased risk of confrontation and complaints.
Mr Hultman warned his list of concerns was “not exhaustive” and said without effective efforts to mitigate disruption and minimise public frustration, there was a “potential for confrontation, complaints and fly-tipping”.
The latest politician calling for restrictions on recycling centre trips to be eased is West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MP Andrew Bowie, in response to a surge in the illegal dumping of rubbish across the north-east.
Mr Bowie said councils in the north-east would benefit from a “careful” reopening as is happening in England.
He said: “Even days into the lockdown, we saw people burning garden waste with all the difficulty that entails for the emergency services.
“At this point, without brown bins, I worry about the amount of fly-tipping and compostable material going to landfill.
“I would ask the first minister to announce the reopening of tips as soon as practical.”
He said there was “clear evidence” that visits to recycling centres can be managed safely, with some English councils opening facilities on certain days for select types of waste.
The MP also suggested booking systems to “ease the prospect of gridlock and stop people visiting on the off-chance that it’s not busy” in rural areas.
A Scottish Government spokesman said work was continuing with council umbrella body Cosla, local authorities and other partners to sustain waste and recycling services and to address ongoing issues.