Proposals relating to Household Waste and Recycling Centres (HWRCs)

What is the current situation?

Hampshire County Council, as a Waste Disposal Authority (WDA), has a duty under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to arrange for places for residents to deposit their household and garden waste at no charge.

Our HWRC network is the largest in England with 24 sites of different sizes, accessibility and levels of efficiency, costing more than £10 million a year to operate. In 2022/23 Hampshire residents made 2.1 million bookings to deposit almost 120,000 tonnes of household waste across the network.

We also have a mutual arrangement with Southampton City Council and Portsmouth City Council, which allows Hampshire residents to use their HWRCs, and vice versa. This consultation does not propose any changes to the HWRCs in Portsmouth and Southampton.

More information about waste services

What is being proposed?

We are proposing to reduce the amount of money we spend on our HWRC network by a minimum of £1.2 million each year as we move towards a legal minimum service level.

We are proposing a range of options that would allow us to operate within this reduced budget, whilst continuing to provide a sustainable, cost-effective and fit for purpose HWRC service for the residents of Hampshire in the context of ongoing budget pressures. These options are:

  • introducing charging for discretionary services
  • implementing alternative delivery models
  • changes to the types of waste accepted at HWRCs
  • reducing the opening days and/or hours of HWRCs
  • reducing the number of existing sites

It is recognised that in isolation most of these options would not deliver £1.2 million in annual savings, so a combination of these would be needed to do so. As the largest savings can be made through closing HWRCs, this proposal is likely to feature in any recommendations.

Feedback to this consultation will inform our view about what is the optimum operating model that would offer the best value for money as we move towards legal minimum service levels, while also making the service more financially sustainable.

Why is this being proposed?

Until a sustainable long-term national funding solution can be found to address the intense financial pressures facing not only the County Council, but also wider local government, we have no choice but to consider changing or reducing services in some areas and propose options for savings.

Reducing the amount of money we spend on our HWRC network by a minimum of £1.2 million each year would contribute towards addressing the County Council’s overall anticipated £132 million budget deficit from April 2025.

By law we must ensure that HWRCs are reasonably accessible to residents at reasonable times. The law does not explain what ‘reasonable’ means; however, the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) provides non statutory guidance to Local Authorities, stating best practice for HWRC networks (see WRAP guidance 2018). Its guidance states HWRCs should ideally cover no more than 120,000 residents or 50,000 households. It also refers to other guidance which advised that a site should not manage more than 17,250 tonnes of waste each year. None of the proposals in this consultation would see us falling below these thresholds based on expected demand. We therefore believe that the proposed options would still offer a reasonable level of service.

The cost of providing HWRCs is split into two parts, the cost of managing the sites (20%) and the cost of disposing the material that is deposited (80%). The cost of disposal is dependent on what and how much residents throw away, whereas the burden of management costs is more controllable.

How would the proposal be implemented?

1. Introducing charging for discretionary services

Despite lobbying central Government since 2015, the County Council is still not legally allowed to support the HWRC service by charging a small fee (e.g. £1) for public access. If the law changed, this could be introduced in future to help cover service costs.

However, we are exploring options for charging for some extra services, that could include, but are not limited to, the following ideas:

  • An additional service provided by site staff to sort residents’ waste upon arrival at the HWRC. This would enable a resident’s visits to the HWRC to be more efficient and would in turn improve the overall operational efficiency of the sites and importantly improve landfill diversion and recycling rates. However, this could require more staff to be employed which would impact on running costs.
  • Premium booking slots. Access could be provided outside of the standard opening hours for a fee. This could enable residents to have more freedom of choice over when they want to visit a HWRC so long as it was within the allowable hours detailed on the site’s environmental permit.
  • Chargeable items. This could include the sale of useful items such as gloves and sacks which could add an element of convenience to the service with items being available on site on demand.

It should be noted that, due to the scale of the proposed savings, these options would need to be considered in combination with other proposals. Additionally, most may only be feasible on a ‘cost recovery’ (non-income generating) basis. Some options may need further legal evaluation and others could require a change in legislation to be taken forward.

2. Alternative delivery models

We could consider a change in the operational management of sites by handing over the running of some HWRCs to other organisations. For example, we could invite charities or community organisations to manage the sites at reduced cost to the County Council. This could be effective for smaller HWRCs that handle less waste and could support local organisations by generating revenue. Other councils such as Somerset and Suffolk have previously investigated this option, although largely unsuccessfully, and we would consider their experience in identifying which sites may be suitable for this option.

Another option could be for a local lower-tier authority (e.g. city, borough, district, town or parish councils) to take on the management of some HWRCs in their area. This is a more complex option, but it could generate a net saving to the County Council by supporting management fees and/or disposal costs incurred. It could also ensure that smaller HWRCs, that are generally less cost-effective to run could remain open in some form.

It is important to note that if this proposal is progressed then these sites would be outside of the County Council’s jurisdiction, and our statutory duty would not be applied. Therefore, operating organisations would be likely to have the freedom to choose opening hours and/or waste types accepted, which may not be the same as current arrangements.

It should also be noted that, due to the scale of the proposed savings, alternative delivery methods would need to be considered in combination with other proposals. Further detailed legal evaluation would be needed to scope these options if they were taken forward.

3. Changes to types of waste accepted at HWRCs 

HWRCs have a legal duty to accept household waste, however there is no clear definition on the actual types of waste that must be accepted, or requirement that all sites should accept all items.

We could consider whether amending the waste types accepted at some sites may make them more efficient. This could include restricting waste types that are expensive to dispose of (such as soil and rubble) to a limited number of sites to make savings on handling and transportation, removing containers for waste types that are rarely deposited to save space, or making some sites ‘recycling only’ by restricting the deposit of non-recyclable materials such as household refuse. This may make some smaller, more expensive sites more efficient to run. Other local authorities have applied such policies elsewhere to some success.

In the event that certain waste types were withdrawn from some sites, the County Council would ensure that a number of HWRCs would continue to accept those materials so a service is available for residents if required. Due to the scale of the proposed savings, these changes would need to be considered in combination with other proposals.

4. Reducing the opening days and/or hours of HWRCs

We could make savings by reducing HWRC opening hours.

Some examples of the savings this could make are shown below, if they were applied to all sites, although it’s possible that different hours could be used at different sites.

Reduction proposed Approx. saving
(all week)
Approx. saving
(Mon-Fri only)
One hour less per day £300,000 £200,000
Two hours less per day £600,000 £400,000
Three hours less per day £900,000 £600,000

Currently the HWRC network is available to residents to deposit their waste for:

  • nine hours per day between April and September (9am to 6pm)
  • eight hours per day in March (9am to 5pm)
  • seven hours per day between October and February (9am to 4pm)

It should be noted that if a three-hour reduction occurred during the winter months, the HWRCs would only be open for four hours each day.

Full day closures could also be considered as part of varying opening hours. For example, a one day closure per week across the network could make savings of approximately £350,000 per year. In such a situation, we would close different sites on different days so that HWRCs were available every day of the week. We could also close HWRCs for more days during the winter months (when people generally use them less) and close less in the summer (when people use them more). Full day closures could be applied on a whole network basis or targeted at less busy sites.

Due to the scale of the proposed savings, changes to opening hours would need to be considered in combination with other proposals. A saving of at least £1.2 million through opening hours alone would require a reduction in opening times of around 57% (equivalent to around 3 days per week).

5. Reducing the number of existing sites

A programme of targeted site closures would deliver the most significant savings, potentially contributing up to £1.6 million to the County Council’s budget. This is because a smaller network of HWRCs would have lower site running costs. We have assumed that waste treatment costs would remain the same, as we would expect to continue to handle a similar volume of waste through a reduced number of sites.

To help determine how this proposal could be implemented, a detailed evaluation of the current network was conducted, which assessed each HWRC against a consistent range of criteria.

These criteria are shown below alongside the weighting (i.e. relative importance) given to each:

Criteria Weighting
1. Number of households (including those in development) within 7 miles driving distance 30%
2. The amount of waste received by the site and diverted from landfill, as well as the ability for other nearby sites to handle this volume if the site were to close 22%
3. Site capacity, and the demand for usage as recorded on the booking system 20%
4. The distance to a suitable alternative site if the site were to close 20%
5. Flooding risks at the site, based on proximity to Flood Zone 3 areas 3%
6. Site performance and efficiency – percentage of waste recycled and diverted from landfill, and the cost of managing each site 3%
7. Site layout – whether the site is split or single-level, and the size and accessibility 2%

Appendix 1 includes the data for each site which was used when undertaking the evaluation.

Sites were also assessed against their scope for future development alongside known future housing development, so that we could be confident that the network would be resilient to future service needs.

The results of the evaluation allocated each HWRC into one of four tiers, as follows:

  • Tier 1 sites are newer, larger sites which are fit for current and future purpose
  • Tier 2 sites are those in strategic locations, which may require some investment to remain fit for purpose in the future
  • Tier 3 sites are smaller sites which would require more extensive investment to remain suitable in the future
  • Tier 4 sites are the smallest sites which provide the poorest value for money to run

The individual sites were classified as follows:

Tier 1

Newer, larger sites, fit for purpose.

  • Andover
  • Basingstoke
  • Eastleigh
  • Gosport
  • Segensworth
  • Waterlooville
  • Winchester

Tier 2

Strategic locations, some investment may be needed.

  • Alton
  • Efford
  • Farnborough
  • Havant
  • Netley

Tier 3

Smaller sites, operationally challenging, investment required.

  • Aldershot
  • Bordon
  • Casbrook
  • Hedge End
  • Marchwood
  • Petersfield
  • Somerley

Tier 4

Smallest sites, poorest performing, most expensive to run

  • Alresford
  • Bishops Waltham
  • Fair Oak
  • Hartley Wintney
  • Hayling Island

Using the above criteria and tiered system, the options for site closures include:

  • No closures
  • Closure of Tier 4 sites only
  • Closure of Tier 3 and Tier 4 sites

There is no statutory guidance for how near a household should be to an HWRC. The 2018 WRAP guidance referenced earlier advises a driving distance of no more than seven miles or driving time of 20 minutes (urban) to 30 minutes (rural) in ‘good traffic’ for the ‘great majority of residents’. Historically, in Hampshire, given its predominantly rural nature, we have worked towards a reasonable provision of having a site available within 10 miles driving distance, with increased focus on the main urban areas where most residents live. Our analysis indicates that, if Tier 4 sites were closed, 98% of Hampshire households (including known future housing) would continue to be served by a HWRC within these parameters.

The five sites placed in Tier 4 are consistently the lowest performing (see Appendix 1) but also among the most expensive to run. They are all small sites that are typically more operationally challenging due to the restricted space and capacity to effectively separate waste materials while ensuring safety of all site users. Several require customers to carry waste up steps to reach bins. Except for Hartley Wintney, they generally receive proportionally fewer bookings per day.

Closure of the five Tier 4 HWRCs would save around £500,000 per year which alone would not sufficiently support the proposed level of savings. This option would therefore need to be combined with additional options in order to reach the savings target.

If the Tier 3 and Tier 4 sites were closed, it is recognised that a larger proportion of Hampshire households would be affected, but 93% would continue to be served by an HWRC within seven miles of their home, and all but a small number of properties in the far north-west corner of the New Forest would still be within 20 minutes drive. The HWRC service provision across Hampshire would also still be within the non-statutory advised limits on population served and tonnage accepted (see Appendix 2 and Appendix 5). Like Tier 4, the sites allocated to Tier 3 are commonly smaller, operationally challenging due to steps and/or cramped space and are generally poorer performing. Closure of the sites in Tiers 3 and 4 would save up to £1.6 million. Due to the potential demand on those sites remaining in Hampshire, and in recognition of the significant budget saving this would produce, it is not considered that a reduction in opening hours elsewhere, or other ways to generate income or savings, would be required.

Timing of any change

The views submitted through this consultation will be collated and used to inform a decision on the future of the HWRC service to be taken by the Lead Executive Member for Universal Services in the summer of 2024. Any proposals taken forward would be implemented from summer 2025, possibly on a phased basis, however some of the operational proposals could be implemented earlier. i.e. changes to type of waste accepted.

Beyond this, we would also be looking to ensure that the HWRC network is fit for purpose by replacing aging and single level sites with larger, more modern split-level sites as opportunities arise in future residential and commercial developments across Hampshire.

What are the potential impacts?

It is often suggested that changes to HWRC services such as charges, reduced opening hours, or closures would lead to an increase in fly tipping. However, where other local authorities have closed sites or reduced opening hours there is no evidence to suggest this is true. Our experience in Hampshire suggests that fly-tipping is mainly carried out by criminal organisations looking to avoid charges for disposal, rather than householders. Regardless of any decision on HWRCs, we will continue to focus on ways to reduce fly tipping, such as through the Hampshire Fly-Tipping Strategy and Action Plan, which we are delivering in partnership with a number of private and public sector organisations.

Introducing charging for discretionary services

If in the future the County Council was permitted by law to charge an access fee this would mean residents would pay to visit sites to deposit their waste. This may have a financial impact on some residents. This may encourage residents to reduce the amount they throw away, or to make less frequent visits with larger amounts of waste to deposit each time.

Charging for discretionary services should have a low impact as these services would be optional. There would be no financial impact on residents who chose not to use discretionary services. It would be at the discretion of the resident whether they would want to use such services as premium booking slots or purchasing of items on site. These services could provide more choice and flexibility to the resident. There would be no impact on residents if they chose not to use discretionary services.

Alternative delivery models

If a charity, local organisation, or other council took over the management of one or more HWRCs as a commercial or community venture, we believe that they would be permitted by law to charge an access fee, as they would not be bound by the same legislation as we are. The precise fee is unknown, but we would expect it to be a small charge such as a few pounds. This may encourage residents to reduce the amount they throw away, making fewer trips and disposing of less waste via HWRCs.

The new site managers could also choose not to accept some types of waste that are currently accepted, or offer other facilities such as reuse shops on site.

Any residents who did not wish to pay an access fee, or who needed to dispose of different waste types not provided for, would still be able to visit a HWRC run by the County Council. However, this may mean a longer journey than they currently experience. 

Changes to types of waste accepted at HWRCs

Amending the provision of certain waste streams at some HWRCs could mean that some residents need to travel further to dispose of a particular waste item if their nearest site no longer accepts it. This should have a low impact as any waste types identified for change would not be the most popular types that HWRCs commonly receive most of the time. Amending the provision at some of the smaller sites could make them more efficient and easier to use for the waste types that they continue to accept.

Reducing the opening hours or days of HWRC sites

Changes to HWRC opening hours or days could make it harder for some residents to visit them if their working hours or other commitments did not give them flexibility to visit at these times. We would attempt to mitigate this where possible by staggering the days and hours that sites were closed to ensure a reasonable level of service across the week.

It may become harder to book a desired slot as demand for these would likely increase. Residents may need to book a slot in advance and arrange their schedules to accommodate these different opening hours or days.

Reducing the number of existing sites

If a decision was made to implement site closures, then residents who use one of the sites that closed would need to travel to a different site or make other arrangements to dispose of their waste. This may mean a longer journey, with impacts on traffic and vehicle emissions. The majority of Hampshire households (93%) would still be within WRAP's guidance for a ‘reasonable’ distance to travel (within seven miles) and all would be within up to 30 minutes drive in ‘good traffic’. However, this may be affected by the weather, time of day or the day of the week when traffic levels may be higher.

The maps in Appendix 5 show the impact on driving distance and time for the two proposed options for reducing the number of existing sites. The grey areas on the maps would no longer be served by an HWRC within 7 miles driving distance, having previously been within 7 miles of a Tier 3 or Tier 4 HWRC.

If HWRCs are closed, demand at the remaining sites would likely become higher as a result of the closures, so users may need to be more flexible in the times or days they use the services due to increased demand at peak times. The areas around these remaining sites may experience higher traffic levels. The booking system should mitigate this.

We believe that if sites close, the residents who use them would use one of the remaining sites instead. The modelling shown in Appendix 3 suggests that demand may outstrip capacity at some sites if HWRCs in Tier 3 and Tier 4 were closed. However, it is thought this could be mitigated by looking for ways to make those sites more efficient, and encouraging people to visit other sites in the wider area.

The closure of sites with poorer accessibility (such as steps that need to be climbed to dispose of waste) would improve the overall safety of the network for users and ensure good accessibility at each site.

Site closures, if required, are covered under the management contract with Veolia, who manages these sites on the County Council’s behalf. Any closures would impact the staff who work at the affected sites, who are employed by Veolia, and any job losses would be managed through their human resources (HR) processes.

What alternatives have been considered?

There are other approaches that we could take that are not proposed at this time. In developing this proposal, we have also considered the following:

Closure of Tier 2, 3 and 4 sites

Closing more sites than those in Tier 3 and Tier 4 is not being proposed at this time, as this level of change would exceed the WRAP guidance regarding number of residents per site (see Appendix 2).

Maintain current levels of service

This option is not being proposed because of the scale of the budget pressures faced by the County Council, and the legal requirement for the Authority to operate within its budget. If we maintained the HWRCs as they are currently operating, it would put additional pressure on other statutory or critical services to deliver increased savings. Statutory services are those we are legally required to provide. This may impact levels of service in these areas and our ability to operate within our budget.

Improving the efficiency of the HWRC network by replacing or refurbishing existing sites

This is not being proposed as it would not deliver the proposed savings by 2025. This option may be considered in the future, with new sites replacing older, less efficient sites. However, this process would take several years and would require substantial investment, so is not viable in the immediate future.

Charging an access fee

As outlined above, we have lobbied Government since 2015 to highlight the positive impact a small access charge could potentially have as a way to bridge budgetary pressures. Applying a simple nominal entrance fee to all users (e.g. £1 per visit) would contribute significantly to supporting the future of the service. However, this is currently prohibited by law.