THE recycling centres in Fife are "working OK" since the controversial booking system was removed last month.

The measure, introduced to control access to the 11 sites in the Kingdom and prevent COVID spreading among visitors and staff, was scrapped at the start of October.

It also helped Fife Council crack down on the "commercial abuse" of the centres, with illegal dumping of non-household waste costing them more than £1 million a year and safeguard workers from physical and verbal abuse.

Ken Gourlay, head of assets, transportation and environment, told councillors: "On October 1, changes were made to remove the booking system and also do a lot of work with staff on risk assessments and installation of barriers to protect and ensure the safe operation of the sites, which has gone well.

"There has been some comment in terms of the usage of the sites but, overall, the changes have been made effectively.

"We only had three weeks' worth of data, to the time the report was written, so it's fairly early to say how successful the changes have been."

Drivers of cars and mobility vehicles no longer have to book a slot, although those using vans, trailers and pick-ups must continue to do so.

As a result, powered access barriers, costing £4,500 each, have been installed at the nine sites that didn't already have them.

Mr Gourlay continued: "There have been concerns raised about volumes entering the sites, and if more waste enters the sites than can be removed then there is a risk they may have to close until the excess waste is dealt with. 

“But although there have been times of queuing at certain locations, overall, I’d say the recycling centres are working OK.”

However, Councillor Andy Heer said: "Pre-COVID, people were allowed to take trailers with a double-axis to recycling centres and I've had some saying they sold them and bought single-axis trailers so they could go to the centres without having to book.

"Having spent good money, they've now found the goalposts have moved again and single-axis trailers are too long as we now have a limit of six feet.

"It seems quite unfair people are being penalised in this way having spent money in order to comply with what was wanted."

The recycling centres are run on behalf of the council by an arms-length external organisation, Fife Resource Solutions.

Their chief executive officer, Robin Baird, replied: "It depends on the layout of the site but we'll certainly be having a look to see where we can be more flexible.

"In some cases, by the time you add the space of the trailer plus the vehicle, it blocks access to the site for other users."

Mr Gourlay told the environment and protective services sub-committee last week that the service continued to be "severely impacted" by COVID and the shortage of drivers.

He added that work was progressing on the feasibility of opening up access to some sites for pedestrians and cyclists.