Recycling centres open gates as lockdown measures ease

Recycling centres open gates as lockdown measures ease

20 May 2020

THE district’s recycling centres have finally reopened.

Newry, Mourne and Down Council had readied itself to open the centres in Downpatrick, Castlewellan and Ballynahinch two weeks ago, but was waiting on formal Stormont approval to press ahead with the move.

The green light came last Friday, but the centres will only be open from Monday to Thursday between 10am and 4pm and strict social distancing measures will be in place.

There were long queues at each of the three centres before they opened on Monday morning but, inevitably, there will disappointment that the heavily-used facilities —which  have been closed for almost seven weeks — will not be open at the weekend when many more people are off work.

Politicians across the district have highlighted an increase in illegal dumping, mainly in secluded rural areas, since the recycling centres closed as part of the coronavirus lockdown.

Council officials say that the reopening of the centres will allow ratepayers to dispose of household waste materials that cannot be stored at home without causing risk of injury or harm to health.

They have also confirmed that strict guidelines have been issued which the public must adhere to when visiting the local sites, confirming that the local authority is working to ensure the sites will operate in accordance with the government’s published guidelines to ensure the safety of staff and the public, specifically in terms of social distancing. 

As from this week, no more than six bags of household waste can be taken to the centres at one time and only one visit per day is permitted. The six bag restriction includes paper, cardboard, cans, bottles and garden waste waste. No commercial waste is being accepted.

Ratepayers are being asked to pre-sort waste before entering the recycling sites and no wood, bulky items of household waste such as old furniture, mattresses or electrical goods will be accepted at this time.

Council officials say that only one person per vehicle should travel to the site, appealing to people queueing to get in to the local facilities to remain in their vehicles.

Only cars, small vans and trailers with small loads will be allowed to use the sites, with access for vans restricted to those no more than 1.95m high. No large vehicles, horse boxes, tractors or small tipper trucks will be allowed on any of the sites.

In addition, visitors must practice social distancing, maintaining a two metre distance from staff and other visitors on site, use hand sanitiser and take direction from centre staff.  Any visitors who refuse to follow staff instruction may be asked to leave. 

Council officials insist that they are continually reviewing the centres’ opening hours in light of rapidly changing events and may have to make further changes at very short notice.

They have appealed to the public to only visit the centres where it is absolutely necessary, keeping heavier and bulkier items at home. Small loads will only be accepted.

Council chairman Charlie Casey urged the public be patient and respect staff as the operation of the restricted service gets underway. 

He continued: “The council does anticipate that there may be significant demand in the first few days and that members of the public may be asked to leave and come back on another day. 

“Please treat household recycling centre staff with respect and consideration during this challenging period. Thank you for your continued cooperation in helping keep the district safe and clean.”

Up until this week, only Mid and East Antrim, Antrim and Newtownabbey and Causeway Coast and Glens were the only councils which had opened their recycling facilities following guidance issued by Stormont environment minister, Edwin poots.

A number of ratepayers in the Saintfield area had expressed concern that while the recycling centres in Down District remained closed, one in nearby Carryduff was open. They suggested all councils should have acted un unison and opened their recycling centres at the same time.