Fife council recycling and landfill centres to keep booking systems in place
Fife’s controversial booking system for landfill sites and recycling centres will remain in place until at least sometime later this year.
Members of the Kingdom’s environment and protective services sub-committee agreed to retain the online booking tool for now following a motion from SNP Dunfermline member Jean Hall Muir and Glenrothes Labour councillor Derek Noble.
Cllr Hall Muir’s motion called for the use of the system by private households to be reviewed in September, with the aim of removing it when coronavirus restrictions are lifted completely in Fife
She told the committee: “We are not out of Covid, by a long shot. We have put these booking systems in place as a direct result of Covid and we need to provide this service safely for users and staff as we ride out this unprecedented time.”
Mandatory online booking was introduced in June last year as recycling centres reopened following Scotland’s first lockdown in the coronavirus pandemic. It allows Fife residents to book up to three visits a week by car, or one visit every seven days for larger 4x4s. A numberplate is required for booking, meaning cyclists and pedestrians cannot book trips.
Councillors at Thursday’s meeting unsuccessfully sought to have the system amended or pulled altogether.
Howe of Fife and Tay Coast Conservative councillor Andy Heer, who failed in his attempt to have the weekly visits restriction lifted, called the limit “nonsensical”.
He said: “We are now in the summertime when people are doing DIY projects and working in their gardens so they need to be able to visit the recycling centre when required, sometimes more than three times a week.”
Tay Bridgehead Lib Dem Jonny Tepp sought to have the use of the booking system limited to peak times, and to permit pedestrians and cyclists to book appointments, but failed to secure a seconder.
Cllr Hall Muir promised to hear out more detailed proposals for the removal of the booking system in September.
The talks earlier this week continued a protracted debate over the use of a booking system for Fife’s 11 household waste centres.
Environment chiefs say the system prevents queues from building up outside tips, allows site managers to promote social distancing between different households as they dispose of rubbish and reduces the likelihood of staff being exposed to abuse from members of the public.
They also claim the system may have prevented commercial firms from illegally dumping industrial waste at household recycling centres, sparing Fife Council’s waste arm, Fife Resource Solutions, up to £1m in lost commercial income.
A survey conducted by Fife Council into the booking system concluded that 82% of 3,287 residents who had used it found it “very easy” or “easy” to use, and more than half preferred the booking system to turning up and having to queue.
However, critics of the system say it is overly complicated and excludes older and less tech-savvy residents.
A petition launched by East Neuk Alliance for Unity councillor Linda Holt calling for the system to be dropped altogether has garnered over 4000 signatures.
Fife Council later introduced a telephone service for those who preferred to book offline, through which 125 appointments have been made, but Labour Glenrothes West and Kinglassie councillor Altany Craik says the system is an “impediment upon our return to normality”.
“If you happen to see a nice day at the weekend and you cut the rhododendrum bush and you want to go to the dump and it takes two trips, that [should be] fine,” he said.
“This is a service to the people of Fife, who ultimately pay for this. If they tell us they aren’t happy…it says to me the service element isn’t quite being met.”
Claims that the mandatory system may be encouraging flytipping have been denied by head of environment Ken Gourlay, who told the committee on Thursday: “There’s no evidential link of flytipping being a consequence of the booking system. That said, there isn’t a link to say it’s not.
“There’s actually been a decrease in flytipping in a couple of parts of Fife but overall environment enforcement officers say they will see an increase this financial year in flytipping.
“It’s fair to say that’s not uncommon. Most councils in the UK seem to be experiencing a rise in flytipping. Whether they’ve got a booking system or not doesn’t seem to be a factor in that.”
Cllr Ross Vettraino, convener of the environment committee, said: “The booking system has led to improvements around safety, efficiency and finances and we will continue to seek to maintain these benefits.
“The council will continue to support the Covid-19 related measures in place and the benefits to staff, the community and the Council, thanks to the booking system.
“We will continue to review the system and prepare for a return to open access for non-commercial waste, with measures in place to address health and safety issues to protect our members of the public and our employees.”