The GMB union said that plans by Essex County Council to ban vans from household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) will reduce recycling rates and increase fly-tipping.
The council announced that, from 31 October, 12 HWRCs will no longer allow access to vans or multi-axle trailers. This accounts for roughly half the county’s HWRCs and the remaining nine will be put “under greater scrutiny” to prevent trade waste with strict limits on DIY waste.
It said the move is in response to ‘man with a van’ operators, property developers and building traders who have “swamped many sites”.
It is estimated that Essex HWRCs have seen a 50% increase in the amount of DIY and construction waste being dumped.
But in a letter to councillors, regional GMB organiser Dave Powell warned the ban would make recycling more difficult and lead to an increase in fly-tipping.
He added that congestion at sites that allowed larger vehicles would likely lead to increased complaints from the public, putting GMB members at risk of being abused.
The union is calling for four sites to be developed across the county where traders can pay to drop off their waste.
Powell said: “The county council is rightly concerned regarding trade waste being taken into recycling centres. Although we understand the problem the council is trying to resolve, we do not believe this is the answer.”
In a statement, the council denied the ban would lead to an increase in flytipping, but admitted the measured recycling rate would be affected.
The statement read: ”We have consulted with many other waste disposal authorities which have also made significant changes to their services, including closing sites. There has been no evidence that changing the nature of the recycling centre service leads to an in increase in criminal behaviour.
”We expect that these changes will give us a more accurate idea of genuine household recycling in the county, which is currently skewed by business waste. Recycling percentages do not give the full picture of waste in the county, and our priority is to encourage residents to reduce the amount of waste they create in the first place.”
The council also said that stopping illegal commercial use at HWRCs would lead to “significantly improved capacity for vehicles”.
Simon Walsh, council cabinet member for waste and environment, said: “The taxpayer cannot continue to pick up the bill for businesses which don’t dispose of their waste properly.”