Will rubbish policy shift be a waste of a good service?
As the council moves to fortnightly bin collections in a bid to encourage higher rates of recycling, Chas Booth says residents will need proper information while David McLetchie believes it will create problems for hard-working families
AGREE - Councillor Chas Booth is Edinburgh Greens’ spokesperson on environment
In Germany, where I lived and worked for two years, everyone recycles. It’s commonplace, like locking your door when you leave your house – nobody gives it a second thought. In Scotland, by contrast, we’ve been slow to end our wasteful ways. Recycling rates of 70 per cent are common in some German cities, while in Edinburgh we struggle at just over 30 per cent. This has to change, for the sake of our wallets as well as the planet.
Our poor record on waste is partly due to governments at both Holyrood and Westminster not taking this seriously. But in recent years, with rising costs of sending waste to landfill, recycling has risen up the agenda.
Over £13 million of Edinburgh council taxpayers’ money was spent burying our rubbish in the ground last year – what a colossal waste of money at a time when public services are so stretched. Surely the money would have been better spent improving care for our elderly, or investing in our schools? So there’s no doubt that increasing recycling and cutting the amount of rubbish we bury will bring financial as well as environmental benefits. It’s the right thing to do.
For that reason, Green councillors support the principle of making recycling much more the norm and making the alternative – collecting for landfill – less frequent. But the way it’s introduced will be critical. Clear communication and support for householders, and swift remedy of the inevitable teething problems will be needed, to ensure public support for the process. The council must also make it much easier for people to recycle, particularly in tenements, where space is at a premium.
Can the council provide indoor containers to replace or supplement kitchen bins? Is advice and information clear and understandable? And crucially, do we have too many different coloured recycling bins, leading to confusion? What about a national system with fewer containers?
But of course we wouldn’t be in this mess if there was less rubbish in the first place. That’s why we need to get serious about the source – cutting down on the amount of product packaging, designing products to last and be repairable, and creating a requirement for manufacturers and retailers to minimise waste. Only then will we win the war for a zero-waste Scotland.
DISAGREE - Scottish Conservative Lothians MSP David McLetchie
The change to fortnightly bin collections, which will affect half of the city’s households, is unacceptable.
It will mean a second-class service for 160,000 households and no
Families especially need a weekly collection, otherwise their bins will overflow either in their homes or in their gardens, and that is not something anyone should have to put up with.
Can you imagine the consequences of having two-week old nappies and other odorous waste lying in a bin at home for twice the length of time it currently does?
This change was put forward by the previous SNP/Lib Dem administration and is now being implemented by the new Labour/SNP alliance. Only Scottish Conservative councillors have voiced opposition.
At the very least this scheme should have been piloted over a smaller area before being rolled out across the city.
There are examples in other council areas – such as East Dunbartonshire – where this kind of scheme has been brought in, only to be scrapped months later in the face of local protests and a failure to achieve
This change is the consequence of years of chaos in the department responsible for refuse collection and environmental services.
It is a classic example of weak management and craven politicians, who have put sucking up to the unions before the interests of residents. Edinburgh’s citizens have had to suffer major problems with their refuse collection in recent years as a result of strikes and work-to-rules, which left waste lying on the streets of what is supposed to be one of Europe’s most attractive capital cities.
As it happens, the private firms who were drafted in at short notice to clean up the mess did a terrific job.
Refuse collection is one of the few council services on which every household relies and uses, and to cut the level of service in half is simply wrong.
It will encourage flytipping and lead to more overflowing bins in many parts of the city which is a public health hazard and damaging to the amenity of our neighbourhoods.
The two reasons cited by the council for the changes are not valid. They will not increase the rate of recycling, because that is a function of how waste is processed, not the frequency of waste collection.
Moreover, if the council was serious about making efficiency savings, it should have taken on the unions and pushed ahead with plans to outsource waste collection last November.
In the last analysis, tens of thousands of households in Edinburgh will see no savings and have to put up with a poorer service.
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Monday 20 May 2013
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