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The system was introduced in May 2020 as a Covid precaution, but council chiefs say it has proved popular with the public and the workforce and stopped long queues and aggressive behaviour at busy times. The Tories and Lib Dems, however, called for the need to book to be scrapped.
Tory group leader Iain Whyte said: "It may only be a minor inconvenience, but I think it is making a difference to people’s attitude as to whether they use the recycling centres and it sends a signal we’re running the service for those who provide the service and our staff and not for those who pay for the service and who the service is for, which is the Edinburgh public.”
He said a separate report to the committee noted fly-tipping had increased. Cllr Whyte said: “We need to do something about fly-tipping, dumping beside bins, dumping in the street and we need to do something about our recycling rates. All of these can be done if we encourage people to do the right thing with open access to recycling centres.”
Lib Dem councillor Kevin Lang echoed the point. He said: “We are finishing this council term with recycling being more difficult today than it was at the beginning. Opening hours for recycling centres have been cut, there have been new charges for recycling where it was free before – yes, the garden tax – and yet councillors look puzzled as to why we have made so little progress in terms of driving forward recycling rates in the city.
"I think Edinburgh is one of the most environmentally conscious cities, probably in the whole of the UK, and we should not be satisfied that recycling rates are at best stagnating or in some cases actually in decline. We need to make it as easy as possible for people to recycle their waste if we’re going to get the step-change in recycling we all want to see.”
Green councillor Steve Burgess said he had initially been cautious about having a booking system, but it allowed people a quicker and safer visit to recycling centres and there had been positive public feedback.
"My only concern is whether the public understand how easy it is to make a booking and if they turn up without one they can pretty much make a booking on the spot,” he said.
Committee convener Lesley Macinnes accepted the Greens’ proposal for notices outside the centres telling the public on-the-spot bookings were possible.
She said the booking system was a “lucky” development that had emerged from the pandemic and had delivered enormous benefits.
And she criticised the opposition for dismissing staff conditions and experience. “We know there were instances of aggression around those sites, presumably fuelled by a bit of chaotic inability for us to manage demand across the day,” she said.
"I used to hate going to the recycling centre before we introduced this system because you never knew how long you had to queue or how long you might end up sitting on a main road queuing out of a site.”