Jim Orr: We can’t waste our big chance to recycle more

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Last September, we made changes to our bin collections, which included changing to fortnightly collections for green household wheelie bins.

We made these changes because, like all councils across Scotland, we need to recycle more and send less waste to landfill.

All of us have a responsibility to reduce, reuse and recycle our waste.

At £100 per tonne, sending waste to landfill places a real burden on council tax payers, not to mention the damage it does to the environment. By recycling more of our waste, we can save money that can be better spent on other local services.

Having green bins collected fortnightly, combined with our recycling services, allows residents to recycle more than two-thirds of the contents of an average household bin.

Like many local authorities across the country – for example, West Lothian, Scottish Borders and, soon, Glasgow – the council has always had a policy of not picking up extra waste beside bins or overfilled bins. We relaxed this policy in order to let residents adapt to the change to fortnightly collections, but starting on February 4, we reintroduced the policy using a phased approach.

As of this week, we have stopped collecting any bags put out beside green bins and will not empty any green bins that are significantly overflowing.

Residents who do leave out excess waste during this fortnight (to Sunday, March 3) will receive a letter stating that if they do the same again on their next collection, they will be sent an official warning.

For those residents who receive these initial warnings and continue to put out excess waste on subsequent collections – from mid-March onwards – they will risk a £50 fixed penalty. But we will only fine people as a last resort. We want to help those who may be struggling to reduce their waste and make the best use of the recycling 
services, and I would encourage people to give us a call or visit our website to find out more.

The lifting mechanisms on the back of our collection vehicles can struggle to cope with overfull bins. Bins can either get stuck or be thrown off the lifting gear, which causes a risk to staff and passers-by.

Overflowing bins can also pose a serious injury risk to refuse collection staff. Just think about it – if you’re lifting a black bag out of a bin at shoulder height, the chances are you’ll need to put your hands on either side of the bag to lift it. If someone has put unwrapped broken glass in the bag, you’d be at real risk of cutting yourself.

Even worse, we have had instances of refuse collection staff being touched with syringes from lifting black bags. These unfortunate staff have then had to endure up to six months of stress and worry while they wait to find out if they have contracted an infection.

Our evidence shows that it is only a small percentage of bins being put out by residents with excess waste beside or the bin is significantly overflowing.

However, there have been reports of a small number of bins being left uncollected even though their lids were slightly ajar. I would like to emphasise that this excess waste policy is not designed for cases like these and that we are checking with our teams on the ground to make sure they know what is and what isn’t acceptable for collection, and that they use their common sense at all times.

I am glad to say that the vast majority of residents find that our recycling services, combined with the fortnightly bin collection, are sufficient and are putting out their waste in line with our policy – helping the city to recycle more, send less to landfill and keeping the streets clean. We are very grateful to all of these residents.

But for the minority who are not complying, this is bound to be a trying time and we appreciate that it may take a while for the message to get across.

But we must continue to reinforce our procedure and if that means issuing fines, we will not hesitate to do so.

• Councillor Jim Orr is vice convener of the transport and environment committee.

LADEN BIN POLICY TRIGGERS BACKLASH

A BID to encourage more people to recycle has led to a backlash from residents after some bins were left unemptied.

City chiefs have made it clear that bins which are overflowing will not be emptied, and have said £50 penalties would only be used as a last resort to target repeat offenders. Despite this – and telling binmen to use their discretion on individual cases, many householders have come forward in the last week to say that their bins were not collected even thought the lid was open by just a fraction of an inch.

The council started issuing warning tags from February 4 to those putting out excess rubbish bags or overflowing bins. Fines are not due to be handed out until at least March 18.

City environment convener Councillor Lesley Hinds said that it was only a “very small” number of cases where refuse staff were “misinterpreting” the policy, and pledged to speak to staff again to ensure they were clear on the guidelines.

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