HOUSEHOLD refuse will go uncollected for at least 17 days over the Christmas holidays – with council leaders admitting a sudden cold snap could put further pressure on an already strained service.
Residents scheduled to have waste collected on Christmas and Boxing day will be visited three days early – but it will be January 9 before the next pick-up.
The changes have been slammed as “unacceptable” by residents and opposition councillors, with warnings of a repeat of chaotic scenes earlier this year when a botched shift to fortnightly collections led to thousands of bins left unemptied and overflowing.
With temperatures expected to plunge as low as -11C, council leader Andrew Burns has admitted the service could falter. He told yesterday’s full council meeting that if there’s bad weather, there may well be disruption to collections.
This is the first Christmas Edinburgh has faced since fortnightly collections were introduced in September. Last year there were collections every week.
Local authorities across the country which have switched to fortnightly collections are expected to struggle if the weather bites. In recent years, residents in some UK cities using fortnightly collections have experienced further delays.
Fears have been raised Christmas food waste will simply be left to rot in homes at a time when families are consuming more and generating bags’ worth of extra trash, attracting urban foxes and other vermin.
With homes bursting with visitors and in-laws, packaging from gifts and refuse from buffet parties, opposition councillors fear many families will struggle with additional refuse generated at this time of year.
They have called on city environment leaders to ensure relief services are in place to respond to a sudden build-up of rubbish. Councillor Jason Rust, Tory member for Colinton and Fairmilehead, said: “The concern is that in those parts of the city still affected by bin collection problems, there will be knock-on issues from having a 17-day gap.
“I would have hoped that we’d be further ahead at this stage in sorting these issues and I think that if the weather is going to turn bad, there could be more problems.
“If there was a pile-up in the past, the council had to get help from other departments with extra resource available so that extra pick-ups could be provided – there should be something like that ready this time.”
Edinburgh households could produce an estimated additional five sacks of refuse each over the holiday fortnight. Environment bosses have insisted they were well prepared to handle the extra waste generated over the festive period – and said there would be extra collections from community recycling banks. But emptying the banks more often has done little to appease council tax-paying residents.
Edinburgh pensioner Annette Kurth, 61, of Craiglockhart, whose bins went uncollected for nearly two months and ended up smelling like an “open sewer” earlier this year, said: “My situation has still not been sorted – so 17 days without any uplift over Christmas is unacceptable.
“Just consider the size of a turkey carcass or the amount of peelings you are going to generate over the festive period.
“And I think there will be an increased problem with vermin – that is absolutely inevitable.
“It’s very cold at the moment but imagine what the smell will be like if the weather becomes more mild over Christmas.”
She was backed by Cameron Rose, leader of the Edinburgh Conservatives, who said the new collection system was still bedding down and that there had been “significant misses” in recent uplifts. “We will see difficulties in terms of ensuring clean, tidy streets as pressures on services multiply around Christmas as well,” he said.
“Nobody is arguing that Christmas and New Year shouldn’t be a holiday but we are apprehensive about this and that there could be a multiplication of the current problem.” On the subject of winter weather, he added: “We have to be flexible and active with our response. We need to be ready to mobilise in an appropriate manner should we see bad weather and the council has not always been able to do that.”
City leaders were also criticised for not providing enough warning of changes to Christmas collection dates. Councillor Chas Booth, Green member for Leith, said: “They were late in letting us know and I would have liked to see information on the changes distributed earlier.
“There’s the concern that members of the public will now put out rubbish in the expectation of an uplift but there won’t be one scheduled.”
Council bosses insisted they had done all they could to ensure Edinburgh’s Christmas waste is disposed of efficiently.
Environment leader Lesley Hinds said: “Every effort has gone into planning a smooth and efficient waste collection service over the festive period and I have been assured that we have the resources in place to deliver this.
“A lot of the waste we produce at this time of year is recyclable, like cardboard and wrapping paper, and this year more households than ever before have food waste recycling.”
She added: “Residents can find details of arrangements on our website or by calling us on 0131-529 3030.”
Five extra bags of waste an unwelcome gift
MINCE pies, turkeys, selection boxes and countless bottles of wine. Families across Scotland will pile on the pounds this Christmas – and they’ll also be
piling up the rubbish.
The average household chucks out an extra five large bags of waste over the festive season and it shows on the streets outside.
And food aside, you only have to look at kids’ toys, which arrive in padded cells of polystyrene, cellophane, cardboard, plastic and foam.
This adds up to 736,000 tonnes of extra refuse – not helped by the 744 million Christmas cards Britons send each other every year.
The big litter offender is that other traditional Christmas essential – the tree – which
accounts for 18 per cent of our rubbish.
However, in Edinburgh bin men will do a tree run from January 7, picking up all those left on the kerbside on brown bin collection days from then.
Last year, even the so-called standard bearers of fortnightly bin collections – Perth and Kinross Council and Fife Council – reported backlogs due to access problems caused by snow and ice.
‘The place will be a midden’
A DAD has warned he may have to store rotting rubbish at home over Christmas because changes to collection dates mean bins will not be emptied for at least 17 days.
Father-of-two Robert Pearson, 30, who works for the Scottish Ambulance Service, admitted he would have to consider the measure when he hosts family at his Muirhouse home.
He said: “As well as my wife and two kids, my sister, her husband and their two kids, my mum and her partner, and my grandmother, will all be spending Christmas here.
“Where’s the rubbish from all that going to go if there’s not a collection here for 17 days?
“I’m certainly not going to leave it out on the street, so we’ll just have to keep it indoors until such time as we’re able to take it to the skip or the recycling points – but they’re often full.
“We’ll have to keep it in rooms – wherever we can. We might even have to store it in the kitchen until we can get rid of it properly.”
His family were left stunned by news that there would be no collection for 17 days after the local area was hit by problems when fortnightly uplifts were introduced earlier this year.
“I cannot believe the council thinks it’s acceptable to leave an area that’s already struggling for even longer than normal without collecting the rubbish,” he said. “I suspect we’ll see a sudden increase in flytipping, overflowing bins and piles of rubbish blown about the street.
“Things will be a lot worse with 17 days’ worth of waste piling up. The place will be a midden.”
Dates for your diary
Collections planned for Christmas Day will now take place on Saturday, December 22.
Bins scheduled to be lifted on Boxing Day will be picked up on December 23.
New Year’s day collections switch to December 29, while those in the diary for January 2 go to December 30, and those planned for January 3 are pushed back to January 5.
Christmas Day collections are now on December 22. Boxing Day pick-ups move to December 23, while New Year’s Day lifts are brought forward to December 29.
Bins to be lifted on January 2 will now be picked up on December 30.
East & West Lothian
Collection times are not yet available.