Recycling centre users have been urged to keep roads clear after tips in Exmouth and Sidmouth had to temporarily shut yesterday to disperse traffic queues.
Facilities in East Devon and Exeter were among those to reopen ‘for essential use only’ on Monday, May 11, with a ‘one-in, one-out’ policy and two-metre social distancing rules.
But Devon County Council (DCC) said today that tailbacks on public highways are now causing a ‘safety issue’.
The authority added that Knowle Hill Recycling Centre, off Salterton Road, Exmouth, and Sidmouth Recycling Centre, at the Bowd, had to close for a spell on Tuesday (May 12) as queues ‘posed a risk’ to other road users.
DCC says the phased reopening of its 19 recycling centres has gone ‘relatively well’ aside from the traffic problems.
Vans, trailers and pick-up trucks are currently barred from the tips and ‘significant delays and queues’ had been predicted.
A DCC spokesperson said: “Public safety is paramount to Devon County Council, but despite their appeals for the public to use the recycling centres only when they’re unable to store waste safely at home or legally dispose of it some other way – with repeated warnings that there will be queues and therefore people should delay their visits – some recycling centres have seen traffic stretching back along the highway, causing safety concerns.
“Both Sidmouth and Exmouth recycling centres had to close temporarily yesterday (Tuesday) to disperse the queues, because of the risk they posed to other road users.
“While recycling centres have re-opened just for essential trips, only cars are currently allowed on site in order to minimise the time it takes to unload, and to maximise throughput.
“However, social distancing means the number of vehicles safely allowed within the sites is roughly a third to a half the usual capacity.
“Site staff are unable to assist visitors with unloading of waste, so it’s sometimes taking drivers a little longer to drive through. With high levels of demand, queues are expected.
“So the council is appealing again to the public to keep the highways clear.”
Councillor Andrea Davis, cabinet member with responsibility for recycling centres, added: “I’d like to thank everyone who is using the recycling centres sensibly for their current ‘essential trip only’ purpose.
“However, we’re issuing a fresh appeal today for the public to not queue on the highway. It’s causing a safety problem, for others as well as themselves.
“We are open for essential trips only, and we intend to stay open in a managed and safe way.
“If we feel that the situation is becoming unsafe, we will as a last resort close a site temporarily in order to disperse traffic off the highway.
“It’s not at all an ideal solution and we’d rather it not get that far. But if we deem it necessary for the safety of other road users, we’ll do it.”
The Government has defined ‘essential use’ as items that ‘cannot be stored without causing a risk of injury, health or harm to the resident or other members of their household’.
Residents are being urged to follow Whitehall guidance and only travel to recycling centres if waste ‘presents a hazard and cannot be legally and responsibly disposed of in other ways’.