A RECORD number of people have been handed fines for littering the streets this year, despite fewer environmental wardens patrolling the city.
New figures show that fines issued to offenders have more than doubled in the past three years.
Around £70,000 of penalties have been meted out in 2011-12 – with 1385 litterers caught by wardens.
That compares with just 659 cases of littering recorded in 2009-10, prompting fears the offence is on the rise. The worst-hit areas of the city include Gorgie/Dalry, Southside/Newington and Fountainbridge/Craiglockhart.
The council, which currently employs between 30 and 40 environmental wardens, said its environmental workforce had dipped slightly since 2009 and credited greater “focus in improving cleanliness in the city” for the rise in offenders.
Councillor Steve Burgess, leader of the Green Party at City Chambers, described the increase in fines as “shocking” and said the spike could be attributed to eagle-eyed wardens becoming more proficient in their work. He also suggested cash raised from the penalties could be ploughed back into providing better on-street recycling facilities which could help reduce the rate of offending.
“This is quite a shocking finding,” he said. “At a time when we are all supposed to be more aware, it looks like littering has more than doubled.
“But it may well be that environmental wardens are just hitting their stride.
“Most of us are careful with our litter but it seems some people still don’t care enough. The council may be hoping if word gets around, this surge in fines will prove a deterrent.
“Certainly the money raised from fines could be ploughed back into providing better on-street recycling facilities.”
Figures obtained by the Evening News using freedom of information legislation revealed a steady rise in littering over the last three years, with 659 offenders caught in 2009-10, 1059 fined in 2010-11, and 1385 recorded in 2011-12.
Councillor Lesley Hinds, environment convener, said: “Edinburgh is a beautiful city for both visitors and residents, which is why last year we were named one of the top-ten cleanest cities in the world. The work of our environmental wardens is central to keeping up these high standards.
“The wardens have been focused in improving the cleanliness of the city and the increase of fixed penalty notices underpins improvement in this area.
“We will continue to take appropriate action against the irresponsible minority who continue to litter the city.”
She added: “I would also like to thank those businesses and residents who use the litter bins provided or take their litter home with them to dispose of it responsibly.”
In June, the News told how a Keep Scotland Beautiful survey had shown Edinburgh’s streets were getting cleaner but still fell short of the target for tackling litter.
A litter league table gave the Capital an overall score of 71 out of a possible 100 – up from 70 a year ago and just one short of the target 72.