Staff outnumbered visitors to Dorchester’s tip for large parts of the day when the facility reopened yesterday.

Dorset Council had predicted long queues – but they failed to materialise, possibly because of the strong, cold easterly wind, or the council message about only taking items which could not be stored safely at home, or where there were no alternative means of disposal available.

Just before 11am, two hours after the Louds Mill site had opened there were no queues and only two cars in the tip area.

Even at opening time there had only been, at worst, 15 vehicles waiting to go in.

Five council staff were on the approach road to the tip, including those with stop/go boards, ready to offer advice about what should be brought to the site and what should not. A similar number of staff were within the tipping area ensuring social distancing was observed and people were charged for items which incur a fee…payable only by contactless means.

Nine out of the ten Dorset Council household recycling centres (HRC) reopened yesterday, the exception being Sherborne, which was said to be not capable of being operated safely – a move timed to coincide with neighbouring Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council.

The council reported traffic queueing to access Millham’s HRC in East Dorset caused congestion on the A348 Ringwood Road during the morning, and there were long queues to get into other sites in east Dorset.

No major issues were reported at sites in west Dorset.

Both councils are stressing that people should still only go to tip sites if they really needed to: “householders should only take waste to a centre if it cannot be stored safely at home and no alternative disposal options are available,” was the official line.

Those who did visit found additional taped areas to keep people apart and some sections of the tips still closed including the area where people put items aside which might be of use to someone else.

“To help reduce the need to travel to HRCs, householders should continue to maximise the use of their kerbside waste and recycling collection services.  You can always put out additional recycling, glass and food waste at the kerbside provided it is separated properly and placed in sturdy containers that can be lifted by one person,” said a council statement.

New rules at all of the sites include no visits on foot or by cycle; only one person to unload at a time except where there are heavy objects not manageable by one; not visiting the tip if you are unwell; if you have to bring children with you they should stay in the car and all waste to be double bagged and left for 72 hours before being taken to a tip site.

Visitors will also find that staff will be unable to help them carry items and that visitors should not touch their faces and should wash their hands on arrival back home.

Said Cllr Tony Alford, Dorset Council’s portfolio holder for customer, community and regulatory services: “I’m pleased we have received the guidance needed from central government and we can offer an outlet at the HRCs for waste that may be posing a risk to some Dorset residents and cannot be collected at the kerbside…

“I just want to emphasise, if you really need to take waste posing a hazard to a HRC, you must follow social-distancing guidelines at each site to protect the public and employees from the continuing pandemic. This will inevitably cause significant delays getting into each site, so we are kindly asking people who can continue to store waste safely to delay their trip to the recycling centre until restrictions are eased further.

“By working together to focus on essential waste, we can make sure the people who need to use our recycling centres are prioritised before services return to normal. I’d like to thank everyone for their patience and understanding at this time.”

Social distancing rules prevented interviews with tip users at Dorchester.