ENVIRONMENT chiefs are to distribute thousands of recycling boxes across the city as they attempt to clear a massive backlog of requests for containers.
Up to 900 red and blue recycling boxes a day will be handed out by contractor Palm as the council works through 5000 outstanding requests from residents – five times more than a normal waiting list.
Council bosses said they expected an emergency delivery of boxes to arrive in the next few days and that the recycling backlog would be cleared by the end of the month.
They advised residents that recyclable material put in cardboard boxes, plastic boxes or clear bags, would also be collected.
The news comes as delays in waste collection continue to hit streets and neighbourhoods across the city after a move to fortnightly pick-ups led to widespread problems, with reports of ceiling-high rubbish in some places and warnings from pest control experts that the Capital’s rat population is set to explode.
Delays are continuing to affect green wheelie bin collections in Oxgangs Farm, Redford, Dreghorn, Belford and Ravelston, as well as food waste in Waterfront, West Granton, Salamander, Newhaven and Bonnington. Environment bosses also revealed delays would continue to affect collections from packaging banks in Granton and Kimmerghame, and from chute-fed bins in Constitution Street, Pilton, Pennywell and Muirhouse.
Capital residents and opposition councillors today expressed frustration at ongoing delays in efforts to return waste collection to normal and said they would reserve judgement on promises of extra recycling boxes until they arrived on time.
Roy Douglas, chair of Muirhouse and Salvesen Community Council, said: “The coordination of this in telling residents when to put their bins out has not been as organised and informative as it should have been.
“I think a lot of people in flats round here have had a number of issues where they are not really given the opportunity to recycle the way they want to with their own containers, and the common bins are always quite full.
“People have complained that they do not have the opportunity to recycle and there are people who want to recycle but feel discouraged because the service is just not there.
“If [the council] has said it is going to distribute these boxes, we will know in a few weeks’ time if they can do it – the proof will be in the pudding.”
Councillor Chas Booth, Green member for Leith and the party’s environment spokesman, branded the council’s handling of the move to fortnightly collection a “fiasco” and said efforts to clear the recycling backlog by the end of the month were “not good enough”.
He said: “The council’s approach to recycling is, quite frankly, rubbish. The whole point of moving to fortnightly collection is to make it easier to for people to recycle and if we have a massive backlog of people waiting for boxes then that’s not acceptable.
“The council needs to get its act together and provide more recycling containers for Edinburgh because recycling makes economic as well as environmental sense.
“I really do not think it’s good enough. Many constituents have come to me to say they really want to recycle but the council have not provided the containers to do so. They have run out of patience with this council and in particular with the waste collection situation, and I can see why.”
Environment bosses at the council today admitted there were ongoing problems in various parts of the city but insisted the situation was improving.
They stressed delays in food waste pick-ups were reducing after outstanding collections from last week were brought back on schedule. They added that collections from chute-fed, street communal, development and trade waste bins on most routes were also going ahead on time.
And despite the News being flooded with reports and pictures of rubbish from on-street side-loading bins overflowing and spilling on to roads and pavements, council bosses claimed delays in these collections were having minimal impact on residents and would be caught up quickly.
Environment leader Lesley Hinds said the council would work as hard as it could to get recycling containers to every resident who wanted one and clear any outstanding delays in waste collection. She said: “At the moment, there are approximately 5000 outstanding requests for the red and blue recycling boxes. This has been created by a five-fold increase in demand on what we’ve had to deal with in previous years.
“We are expecting a large delivery of the red and blue boxes in the next few days. This will mean the council can give out between 500 and 900 boxes on any one day so that, by the end of this month, we expect that all outstanding demand, plus any new requests that come in, will be met.
“This week we have also been concentrating on getting food waste carriers to people who request them and to the city’s streets. By the end of this week, we expect around 8000 of the carriers will have gone out.”
She added that new data showed the city was making good progress on boosting participation in recycling and reducing the amount of waste going to landfill.
She said: “Between May 2011 and September this year, the percentage of residents putting out food waste for collection went up from 16.5 per cent to 28 per cent. And between last September and September this year, there has been a decrease of 2500 tonnes in what we are sending to landfill.
“These are pretty massive numbers and they show we are heading in the right direction.”
• A ZERO-TOLERANCE crackdown on trade waste is to be considered by the council in a bid to reduce “clutter” on the city streets.
Currently, most businesses use large containers which are emptied less frequently for their waste, as this is a cheaper option. As a result, the council has revealed it issues an average of 82 fixed penalty notices every month relating to littering from trade waste.
A report to the Transport, Infrastructure and Environment Committee next week will consider whether a zero-tolerance approach to large and bulky on-street containers could be explored further.
This would see the council use existing powers to push for tighter control of trade waste, following local authorities such as Westminster and Manchester, who currently have a zero-tolerance approach to the storage of waste on the streets.
In both cities, this has developed into an approach that requires all waste to be stored on business premises and only put on the street just before collection.
Councillor Lesley Hinds, the city’s transport and environment convener, said: “Large, trade waste containers can have a detrimental impact not only on the look of an area but also the cleanliness. We now need to look at the options for how this can be better managed”