The Moorlander was recently alerted to a Facebook post by an Okehampton resident who was left ‘fuming’ after an argument with a member of staff at the Okehampton Recycling Centre.
The woman had visited the shop on the site to discover that what used to be fairly priced second-hand goods salvaged from other people’s unwanted items, were now so highly priced that she was left amazed. Part of the post reads: ‘We walked in to discover everything had new red and white high-priced price stickers, when I asked why a set of crockery was £20, I was told that it was company policy to have much higher prices now because they had made too many losses during the lockdowns…’ I said that everyone was struggling to get by now, that there are lots of unemployed people who depend on places such as this to get cheap household necessities and putting up the prices was really inconsiderate. The response I received was ‘actually, studies show that UK residents are now better off after lockdowns and that unemployment is down, that people are in fact more affluent now [and] therefore they should be happy to pay higher prices for their purchases’.
The post goes on to say that the following week the lady tried to walk into the site to recycle some clothes and was told that as she didn’t have a car, she wasn’t allowed in. This same scenario happened to the editor of this paper.
The Moorlander wrote to Cllr Roger Croad, Vice Chair of Devon Authorities Strategic Waste Committee, to ask why members of the public were being treated with such contempt.
Dear Cllr Croad,
It has been brought to our attention that the local population in and around Okehampton are becoming increasingly frustrated and insulted by members of staff and policies in place at Okehampton Recycling Centre. A local lady has recently taken to social media to explain how, when she questioned the high prices of the second-hand goods sold in the shop on site, a member of staff told her that DCC had taken the decision to raise all the prices in all such shops because they suffered such losses during lockdown. He went on to say that the pandemic had actually made the general public more affluent, employment figures were down and people should be happy to pay more for the second hand goods sold there since people had more money now. This is obviously complete nonsense and the lady in question was, quite rightly, astounded at this worker’s arrogance.
This was just one of many reports from local people, all stating the same things. Another issue, which I myself found recently, is that the workers at the site refuse entrance to anyone not in a vehicle. At a time when, surely, we are all looking to reduce our carbon footprint by walking, recycling what we cannot re-use and re-using pre-loved goods, by not allowing pedestrians onto the site DCC is not holding to its own commitments?
A recent visit to the site by myself and my children left me feeling much the same as the locals – the staff are arrogant and rude and the policies they aggressively enforce seem very much contrary to DCC promises.
Might I ask whether you could confirm or deny the claim relating to the cost of these second hand items sold on DCC sites and where the money goes? And could I please request a reason as to why pedestrians are discriminated against and not allowed to use these facilities? Is this just Okehampton or is it a Devon-wide policy?
A spokesperson from Devon County Council responded: ‘Our household waste recycling centres (HWRCs) are operated by our contractor, SUEZ. Comments made by individual members of staff do not reflect the views of the County Council or SUEZ.
‘SUEZ run[s] the site shops on a commercial basis, with the pricing process overseen by an experienced re-sale manager. As with all shops, it’s a customer’s choice whether or not to make a purchase. We are committed to helping ensure goods are re-used as much as possible and sales from the site shops help support the overall running of our Household Waste Recycling Centre service. We have recently improved the Okehampton site by adding an additional sales cabin and a new facility for testing electrical goods so tested and guaranteed TVs, vacuum cleaners and lamps can now be purchased, which is proving popular with customers.
‘Safety is paramount when using our household waste recycling centres, which is why children must remain in a vehicle at all times and adult pedestrians can only access those sites where there is a footpath. The Okehampton facility has no footpath access and therefore it is not safe to allow users to access on foot. However, the site can be accessed by bike.
‘Due to the ongoing coronavirus [disease] pandemic, our household waste recycling centres are still limiting the number of people on sites to allow for social distancing. If you only have a small amount of recyclables, like re-usable clothing that would fit in a backpack, it’s more appropriate to put these out for the normal kerbside recycling if collected by your District Council or place in your local recycling banks.’