Thousands fewer visits to Norfolk recycling centres and fly-tipping on the rise after charges come in
PUBLISHED: 13:09 14 June 2018 | UPDATED: 14:19 28 June 2018
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Thousands fewer people are using Norfolk's recycling centres following the introduction of controversial DIY waste charges.
Meanwhile, fly-tipping across the county has increased since the charges were introduced in April, the latest figures reveal.
On April 1, Norfolk County Council removed a concession which allowed people to leave up to 80 litres of DIY waste at its recycling centres for no charge.
It means DIYers now have to pay £3 for getting rid of a bag of rubble and item of timber, and £9 for plasterboard.
The council said the move would save it £280,000 a year.
But figures given to this newspaper show there were 35,866 fewer visitors to Norfolk’s recycling centres in April 2018, compared to April 2017 – a drop of 30pc.
The amount of waste dumped over the same period also fell by 30pc – almost 2,000 tonnes.
Norfolk County Council was also able to confirm last night that 107,875 people visited the county’s recycling sites in May this year, compared to 122,210 in May, 2017.
It comes as figures from six district councils in Norfolk reveal fly-tipping increased by 24pc from 930 incidents in April 2017 to 1,158 in April 2018.
A North Norfolk District Council spokesman said it was still too early to say whether it was experiencing an “unusual” trend or not.
Norwich City Council saw one of the biggest increases over that period, with 544 incidents in April last year to 654 in April this year.
The issue has cost the taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds to clear up.
Between April last year and March 2018, the Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk spent £47,102 on clean-up operations alone.
North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb said the fly-tipping rise was an “inevitable consequence” of the dump charges.
He challenged county council leader Andrew Proctor to review the fees.
The Liberal Democrat MP said: “I don’t see how the council can justify it under the current legal framework.”
The Norfolk branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) said the changes were “ill-advised”.
A spokesman said: “While we sympathise with local councils struggling to meet budgets, this attempt to raise income is in our opinion, short-sighted and likely to be counter-productive.”
Some of Norfolk’s main recycling centres said they had noticed a decline in DIY waste since the charges were introduced.
A member of staff at one tip, who did not wish to be named, said: “Before this all started we were rushed off our feet.
“But the trailer loads [of waste] we would normally get, we have not seen. So where is it going?”
The staff member said they were concerned that a reduction in visitors could make their site no longer viable, meaning it could go part-time.
In April 2017, 124,240 people visited Norfolk’s recycling centres. But in April 2018, that figure fell to 88,374.
The amount of disposed waste also fell from 6,277 tonnes in April 2017 to 4,351 tonnes in April 2018.
Of that figure in 2017, 1,591 was chargeable waste, such as timber and rubble, compared to 807 tonnes this year.
An online petition calling for the council to reverse its decision has also been signed by 6,455 people.
Recycling centres still accept household waste free-of-charge - this includes freestanding furniture, electricals and white goods.
Previously, people could also leave either one large item or up to 80 litres of waste at a recycling centre for free.
But under the new system, people are now charged per DIY waste item or per 80 litre bag.
The council said the charge would help offset the £7.5m cost of disposing waste from recycling centres.
Roger Woods, the Forestry Commission’s communications manager for the east, said there had been an increase in fly-tipping since the charges were introduced.
He said: “I think there’s a misunderstanding about what folk can and can’t dispose of, and what they get charged for, hence we’re getting furniture, white goods and large quantities of commercial DIY waste dumped across the estate.”
A Norfolk County Council spokesman said: “We continuously monitor all council policies and any can be reviewed.
“In Norfolk, we’ve been charging for all but very small amounts of DIY waste for many years.
“The recent change was to stop allowing people to each week leave one item or an 80-litre sack of DIY waste for free.
“This change is expected to save Norfolk County Council more than £280,000 a year.
“The fees will help to offset the cost of waste disposal from household waste recycling centres and which totalled £7.5m last year.”
•What the figures show
The amount of fly-tipping incidents recorded in April this year increased in almost all areas when compared to the same month last year.
• April 2018: 173
• April 2017: 152
• £47,102 spent clearing up fly-tipping between April 2017 and March 2018.
• April 2018: 51
• April 2017: 31
• April 2018: 73
• April 2017: 56
• April 2018: 156
• April 2017: 104
• April 2018: 51
• April 2017: 43
• £24,109 (estimated) spent clearing up fly-tipping between April 2017 and March 2018.
• April 2018: 654
• April 2017: 544
Great Yarmouth Borough Council’s figures were not included due to a change in the way fly-tipping incidents are reported.
•What are the charges
People can still dispose of household waste free of charge.
However, it now costs to dispose of DIY waste either per item or per 80-litre bag.
The charges are:
• Plasterboard £9
• Rubble (tiles, ceramic sinks and toilets, bricks and paving slabs) £3
• Timber (kitchen units, doors, flooring and fence panels) £3
• Non-recyclable (roof felt, plastic guttering, baths, soil and turf) £5
• Flat glass £5
The council said there were no restrictions or charges on metals. Unsorted or mixed materials will also mean a £5 charge.
The council said single item charges only applied to “recognisable” smaller items, such as a sink or fence panel.
Larger or dismantled items will be charged by multiples of 80 litres.
All of the charges are the same across the recycling centres, apart from Mile Cross which charges £15 for plasterboard.
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