Bin Watch: Can the Council keep city clean during Festival?

Will the streets be clean this festival period? Picture: Ian Georgeson
Will the streets be clean this festival period? Picture: Ian Georgeson
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Keeping the streets of Edinburgh tidy during the world’s biggest arts festival is always going to be a problem.

The problem

Keeping the streets clean is always a problem during the Festival. That’s not really surprising given the population of the city roughly doubles during August. Last summer, however, the problem was particularly bad with piles of rubbish - much of it black bags left beside unemptied communal bins - piling up in the streets. The city council’s bin collection and street cleaning teams were clearly unable to cope. The problem got particularly bad in some streets where rubbish started to pile up and then seemed to attract more dumping. All this was highlighted by readers of the Evening News who shared photos of dumped rubbish with us as part of our Bin Watch campaign which called for a more efficient service.

What has happened since?

The council put in place a 65-point plan in response to the problems highlighted by our Bin Watch campaign. That included ordering an end to the task-and-finish system which encouraged bin men to finish their routes as quickly as possible and knock off early, sometimes hours before the end of their shift. New rules were also brought in for street cleaning teams which has lead to more use of brushes and shovels rather than automatic street sweepers which can’t get into gaps between parked cars.

A big part of the problem last year especially in the city centre was found to be businesses who did not have private contracts in place for disposing of their rubbish dumping their waste in the communal bins mean for residents. Council officers visited many city centre businesses to advise them of the need to have their own arrangements in place or risk a fine.

The changes have had a significant impact although problems remain. Complaints over missed collections have fallen from 1243 per week to 950. The service has become much more efficient at collecting wheely bins from homes across the city. The biggest ongoing problems are in areas, such as the city centre and heavily tenemented neighbourhoods, where on-street communal bins are in use.

How will the city cope with this year’s Festival?

The council will once again have a total of around 130 staff working to keep the Old and New Town clean. This is around 40 more than at most other times of the year and includes some working through the night.

Edinburgh’s new tranport and environment leader councillor Lesley Macinness is confident there is a robust plan in place. “As ever, we want to ensure Edinburgh is as clean and tidy as possible for both residents and visitors and, thanks to our hard-working city centre team, we hope to be able to manage demand over the busy period.” she says.

“However, we rely on the public doing their share too. We would encourage people to always take care when disposing of their rubbish to help make the Capital as beautiful as we all know it is.”

The city’s Tory leader Iain Whyte is not so sure and says it will be a test of the improvement that has been made.

What will be different this year?

The routes that the bin collection teams work and the frequency of collections in the worst affected areas. The council has been studying ‘bid data’ gathered from the millions of collections it makes each year. As a result, new high-frequency collection routes will be in operation, ensuring teams better target streets where the bins fill up quickest.

What can you do?

Make sure that you follow the rules for where and when you put your own rubbish out. You can report missed collections to the council via their website or on 0131 608 1100.

You can report any persistent problems to our news team by calling us on 0131 311 7538, emailing newsen@edinburghnews.com or messaging us on Facebook or Twitter.