Council defends one size fits all recycling booking system despite opposition

Essex County Council has defended its one-size-fits-all stance after formalising a decision to make its recycling booking system permanent.

Essex County Council cabinet agreed that its system requiring people to pre-book a slot at its 21 recycling centres should stay.

Essex County Council cabinet member for waste Councillor Peter Schwier said the system made it easier and quicker for people to get through each centre without delays and long queues.

The council has been operating a pilot scheme since March 2023. It received more than 18,000 consultation responses – on average 58 per cent of car users agreed it should be kept while 72 per cent of van users agreed it should be retained.

However, there were significant differences across individual areas. Just about 20 per cent of people in Uttlesford said they wanted the booking system but in Rochford around 90 per cent of people were in favour.

Councillor Ivan Henderson told Cllr Schwier: “When he says he has listened to residents it doesn’t seem to me you have listened. You had a system which on a number of sites wasn’t broken and it didn’t need fixing and now you are ignoring a number of those sites that are under 50 per cent who want to maintain the original system.”

Cllr Schwier said: “It is important to remember that we are looking at this overall at all our recycling centres. What is important is that this is going to ensure a clear and consistent process and is a universal county-wide approach which will have all the benefits across those systems.

“And while there may be variations from district to district in the recycling centres overall what is important here is the response from that consultation which was very high. The user response was 93 per cent in favour.”

The council has added the impact of a booking process on the level of fly-tipping has been a key area of concern for some residents. However, no direct link has been identified between the introduction of the booking process and the level of reported fly-tipping in Essex.

It adds overall waste tonnage trends have been largely unaffected by the introduction of a booking process and there is no indication that bulky waste is being transferred from the recycling centres into kerbside collections. The council says the system has helped manage demand across the recycling centre network to reduce the queues and congestion that were being experienced at peak times.

Cllr Schwier added: “It is a very pragmatic view that we have taken because it allows people not only to book and choose a time when they actually want to go but it also operates better for the member of the public to recycle because they get through much quicker.”

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter