City-centre litter complaints halved during Festival

The number of complaints regarding litter has fallen following new waste policies from the Council.
The number of complaints regarding litter has fallen following new waste policies from the Council.
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COMPLAINTS about city-centre litter during this year’s Festival were more than 50 per cent lower than last year.

Figures released by the city council show the number of complaints during the Festival period fell from 535 to 252 – a reduction of 53 per cent.

Environment convener Councillor Lesley Macinnes said it showed the council’s efforts to improve waste collection was having an impact.

But the Tories claimed people had just given up complaining about the problem.

Across the city, the number of complaints dropped by almost a third, from 3527 during last year’s Festival to 2388 this year.

Bill Cowan, of the Old Town Community Council, said it was probably true there was less rubbish on the streets this year. But he added: “The reality is there was still far too much litter.”

And he said bin emptying was patchy. “These big bins with ‘I’m a bin – drop your litter in’ on them have definitely been a big help. The council deserves to be congratulated on them – but we have photographic evidence from June, July and August of them not being emptied often enough.”

The council adopted a 65-point waste and cleansing improvement plan last November, including changes to bin collection routes, workforce training and extra communal bins.

During August, an extra 40 street cleansing staff joined the existing 90, providing 24/7 support to help deal with the impact of the Festival. There were also frequent litter bin collections and increased patrols by environmental wardens to discourage litter-dropping and fly-tipping.

Tory environment spokesman Councillor Nick Cook said: “Given the sustained failure of city waste collection services, it’s hardly 
surprising the council would seek to trumpet an apparent drop in complaints.

“Rather than owing to a drastic improvement in service levels, complaints in many cases are down as many people have simply given up reporting them.

“The council’s automated complaints line is confusing and impersonal, while many elderly and vulnerable residents cannot complain online or by social media.

“Almost a year after the council’s 65-point crisis plan to shape up waste services, the need for huge improvement remains.”

Cllr Macinnes said the new figures were encouraging. “They demonstrate the impact our efforts to improve waste and cleansing services are having, not just in the centre but across the city,” she said.

“By increasing resources around the busy festival period we have been able to cope better with demand, but we want to continue to target issues like litter and fly-tipping throughout the year.

“While we are working on actions to achieve this, we also need the help of the public, so I would encourage people to take responsibility for their rubbish and help make Edinburgh a clean, welcoming place, whatever the season.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com