Row over responsibility for re-opening of dumps

The Scottish Government has been accused of blocking councils from reopening recycling centres to allow households to dump waste and prevent flytipping.

Roseanna Cunningham
Roseanna Cunningham

Scottish Labour MSP Alex Rowley said local authorities were ready to safely reopen their dumps, but that permission wasn’t being given by the government.

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Scottish dumps and recycling centres to remain closed

However Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said local authorities were responsible for the operation of recycling centres, and the government was working with Cosla on a “wider position statement” on their reopening.

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Raising the issue in Holyrood after the Scottish Environment Protection Agency reported flytipping was up 40 per cent on the same time last year, Mr Rowley said Fife Council’s co-leader had said they had a “proposal in place to try and reopen some recycling centres and the stumbling block in moving forward with that is the Scottish Government.

“It needs to be clearer that these services are essential and can be opened in a safe way – there’s no point in blaming local councils. Will you work with councils to get these services open?”

Ms Cunningham said councils needed to consider “several factors” before centres could be reopened, including ensuring physical distancing and “discouraging the public from making unnecessary journeys”.

She added: “We are working closely with Cosla and local authorities on the development of a wider position statement regarding the prioritisation of waste services and discussing what further guidance and practical steps for recycling centres may be required.

“There are a number of councils looking at how they can manage this, but there are impacts that can develop as we’ve seen south of the border, and we don’t want to see a replication of that here, so we want to understand how these recycling centre are managed.”

Ms Cunningham said that household waste centres were also closed because of workforce shortages. She said average absence rates in waste services were between 15 and 35 per cent, “some as high as 40 per cent”.

She added: “I’m presuming the member doesn’t want me to instruct all local authorities to reopen without regard to other matters, that would be wrong and if I did that he’d be the first to tell me I had no business to instruct local authorities. We have to discuss what dguidance will best manage them to reopen and manage unintended consequences.”

Most flytipping she said was of commerical waste which wouldn’t normally be disposed of in recycling centres.

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Scottish Greens Mark Ruskell said that government guidance must be issued “urgently to ensure that recycling centres can be opened as soon and as safely as possible.”He added: “There’s been a huge increase in flytipping in recent weeks and reopening these centres should help to reduce this problem. Larger items such as furniture and electrical goods cannot be recycled through council bin collections, it’s important householders are patient, but we do need certainty over when recycling centres will safely re-open.

“There’ll likely be a huge rush to these centres as lockdown is eased and it’s vital that this is managed safely. Engagement with trade unions to ensure that staff can work in a safe environment will be of the upmost importance in developing this guidance.”

A Cosla spokesperson said: “Household waste recycling centres remain closed in all local authorities, to protect staff and members of the public and to discourage non-essential travel.

“However, in preparation for easing the lockdown, local authorities, Cosla and the Scottish Government are taking practical steps to consider under what circumstances centres could reopen and are actively working on bringing more waste services back on stream. In the meantime, flytipping remains an antisocial and illegal activity, and takes away resources much needed to deliver other essential services, such as delivering food to vulnerable people.”

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