HOUSEHOLDERS have been urged not to undertake major clear-outs during the coronavirus lockdown as fears are raised over the potential for increased flytipping.

There have also been calls on the Government to designate recycling centre workers as part of an essential service, to help prevent the problem.

Durham county councillor John Clare, who represents Newton Aycliffe, said: "We have no evidence that people that people who are doing their gardens and having clear-outs are dumping their stuff in the countryside, but there is certainly a fear that that may happen.

"There is a fear that white van men will pick up stuff and tell people they are taking it away, but then in fact are then driving out to the countryside and dumping it. The solution is that the government declares tip workers along with other things like supermarkets as key workers, then we can get all these places reopened."

He added: "The safety of workers is cited, but if ever there was a situation where the workers were safe it would be at a household waste recycling centre, when people dump their stuff in bins and drive off again."

Oliver Sherratt, Durham County Council’s head of environment, said: “In the interests of public health, and to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the government has instructed members of the public to only leave the house for one of four reasons – shopping for basic necessities, one form of exercise per day, any medical need or the care of a vulnerable person, or travelling to and from work.

“As visits to household waste recycling centres are not included in those reasons, we would encourage people not to undertake major clear outs during this stay-at-home period as these sites will not be open. Should the restrictions be loosened, we will of course consider re-opening the facilities, ensuring as far as possible that social distancing is maintained.”

Mr Sherratt said some of the flytipping incidents recorded by Northern Echo photographer Sarah Caldecott had been cleared while others were subject to enforcement action.

He added: "We have flytipping cameras deployed around several areas of the county and our neighbourhood wardens continue to prioritise work in tackling this illegal activity. We will not hesitate to take further action against those who flytip.”

Councillor Andy Keir, Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet member for local services said: “We are doing everything we can to ensure that all our services comply with Government guidance and only staff doing essential work are on site. We have had to cut back on street cleaning, but staff will continue to deal with anything that poses a health risk.

“Thankfully we have not seen an increase in fly tipping, in fact the number of calls we’ve received in the past week is less than the same period last year – 56 compared to 100.

"However, we would remind residents that fly tipping is illegal and can lead to prosecution and urge them to be vigilant and continue to report incidents to us using our online form at

“We would also urge residents to manage their waste responsibly and to follow government guidelines to ensure anyone who is self-isolating double bag personal waste such as used tissues and disposable cleaning cloths.

"Such items should be stored securely within a bag, with this then placed in another bag which is tied securely and kept separate from other waste. These should then be put aside for at least 72 hours before being put in external household waste bins.”