New permit scheme will stop residents from neighbouring counties using OUR household recycling centres as dumping ground for commercial waste

Where Cambridgeshire County Council has its household recycling centres

Where Cambridgeshire County Council has its household recycling centres - Credit: Archant

Residents from neighbouring counties have been pitching up in Cambridgeshire to drop off commercial waste at household recycling centres because we have fewer restrictions and are open longer.

In Wisbech, for instance, the county council says one in three users surveyed last year were from outside of Cambridgeshire.

Graham Hughes, executive director place and economy for the county council, said: "The St Neots household recycling centre, located close to the border with Mid Bedfordshire, has seen increases in the quantity of waste received of up to 40 per cent between 2012/13 and 2016/17."

Now Cambridgeshire County Council is bringing in an e-permit scheme at all nine of its household recycling centres (HRCs) in a bid to bring us into line with neighbouring counties.

Van and trailer e-permits could end the abuse, says the council, and will ensure tighter regulation of those entitled to use the recycling centres and what amounts they can leave there.

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Between 2012/13 and 2016/17, the waste collected at all household recycling centres in Cambridgeshire rose by 20 per cent compared with growth in kerbside collections of just four per cent over the same period.

Mr Hughes, who presented a report to the highways and infrastructure committee, noted a number of contributory factors had led to this higher growth.

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Changes made by neighbouring authorities had resulted in some of their residents using the recycling centres in Cambridgeshire "as our sites are open every day, access is unrestricted and construction and demolition waste is accepted free of charge without clearly defined quantity restrictions".

In recent years the costs of disposing of construction and demolition waste using private waste disposal companies had increased significantly, he said.

"During this time, increasing numbers of vans and trailers are being used to dispose of large quantities of waste at the HRCs where there are no direct charges," he said.

"Some of these visits are suspected to be from people depositing waste generated by commercial activities or waste that we do not have a statutory duty to accept."

Light touch enforcement at Cambridgeshire HRCs had shown that these were "open to abuse by residents from neighbouring authorities, people disposing of waste from commercial sources, people disposing of large quantities of construction and demolition waste and excessive quantities of household waste".

Mr Hughes said: "The existing HRC infrastructure will be put under increasing pressure as the forecast household growth in Cambridgeshire will lead to increased numbers of HRC visitors and rising waste volumes for treatment and disposal.

"This is a challenge facing many of our neighbouring authorities who are considering introducing further restrictions at their HRC sites to delay the need for additional infrastructure and to prevent increased disposal costs in their areas.

"If Cambridgeshire County Council does not take action to address these issues, the quantities of waste presented at the HRCs in Cambridgeshire will continue to increase as the population grows, adding to the cost of providing HRC services and bringing forward the requirement for investment in Cambridgeshire's HRC infrastructure to cope with rising demand."

Under the new scheme any anyone wishing to visit one of the nine HRC sites in a van or using a trailer would be required to obtain an e-permit before visiting.

It is proposed that the number of van and trailer permits be limited to a maximum of 12 each year per household.

Vans and trailers that exceed the existing vehicle size restrictions would not be issued a permit.

A number of exceptions are being considered - including those for small trailers- but overall the county council is confident that they can reduce the abuse of their HRCs and thus reduce disposal costs to the council.

HRC staff - employed by Amey under a PFI contract - will adopt a "meet and greet" policy to explain the new changes and to embed it into the daily workings of each site.

Councillors accepted the new e-permit proposals but felt clarity was essential and some flexibility needed early on to avoid growth in fly tipping.

One councillor who raised the issue of staff safety was told all sites had CCTV and some workers had a body camera to ensure safety.

The e-permit application will require both vehicle registration and the postal address from which the waste is coming and whether the van is hired.

CCC provides nine HRCs around the county that provide a range of services for residents to reuse, recycle and dispose of their bulky household waste. The sites are operated by Amey as part of the long-term waste Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract.

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