RESIDENTS of a council aiming to significantly increase recycling rates are facing a ten-day wait to visit its recycling centre after improved weather led to a “tsunami of people coming out” with garden waste.

A six-and-a-half hour meeting of Darlington Borough Council heard while the council would strive to clear the backlog and prevent lengthy queues of cars outside its waste tip, it was also set to launch a recycling awareness campaign with a “message more in people’s faces” as more than a fifth of residents’ recycling bins waste was contaminated last year.

The meeting had heard several concerns being raised by residents and councillors over its waste management, fly-tipping and recycling strategies, which it was claimed impacted on each other.

Dismissing criticisms, leading councillors said the authority’s “robust” approach towards tackling fly-tipping in back lanes, which includes sending fine warnings to entire streets, was paying dividends in improving the environment.

Following environmentalists highlighting a national issue of how large volumes of unsuitable rubbish from recycling bins is being sent to be incinerated at energy from waste plants, which produce significant carbon emissions, resident Rachel Nixon questioned how much recycling bin waste did not reach the recycling process in the borough.

The authority’s local services cabinet member Councillor Andy Keir revealed while the total weight collected in council recycling bins had risen from 6,685 tonnes in 2017/18 to 7,316 tonnes in 2019/20, the percentage of contaminated waste from the council’s recycling bins had risen from 15 per cent to 22 per cent over that period.

Cllr Keir said as the borough also had a recycling centre the authority’s overall recycling rate was 40 per cent.

He said: “Going forward that’s obviously the area we want to increase and we want to take that up to 45 per cent by 2025. We are looking at how we can make that message more in people’s faces, more forthright as to how we go about the recycling portion.

“When we think of online shopping, that’s going to take us even more into thinking about how we can maximise that recycling without causing contamination and getting those recycling numbers up.

“We are asking people to do their best with recycling both in their bins and also when they go to the recycling centre, and make sure they extract what they can from the general waste and put it into the appropriate bins.”

However, Cllr Andy Scott asked if the council considered it had sufficient capacity to meet demand given its recycling centre had a waiting list of about 4,500, equivalent to a ten-day wait to visit it.

He added: “Surely this is detrimental to all the work going on trying to tackle fly-tipping?”

Cllr Keir said a change in the weather had led to a “tsunami of people coming out”, creating issues with traffic backing out onto Whessoe Road, so the council had introduced a booking system to control the flow.

However, the meeting was told residents were abusing the system, booking up to 15 slots and not turning up, so the authority was looking at how it could stop it, as well as extending opening times at the centre.

Cllr Keir said: “We still have Covid, we still have social distancing so the tip is working at the rate it can under the circumstances.

“I would ask people to persevere with it. We do need the tip. If you look around at all the other areas, Newton Aycliffe for example, and other areas in the Tees Valley, they are all adopting a booking system as well, for exactly the same reasons.”