Landfill fines hit £1m as Capital misses target

The landfill site in Dunbar where the city's rubbish is currently taken. Picture: Ian Rutherford

The landfill site in Dunbar where the city's rubbish is currently taken. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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ALMOST £1 million in landfill tax fines have been racked up by Edinburgh this year as the city continues to fail recycling targets.

Despite a controversial move to fortnightly bin collections and bolstering recycling options, the Capital has missed Scottish Government landfill targets for the sixth year in a row.

It means the total cost of landfill tax fines paid by the underperforming authority now stretches into the tens of millions of pounds.

Critics said the city was “pouring public money into a hole in the ground”.

Under the Zero Waste Plan introduced in 2008, the Scottish Government set a target for no more than five per cent of waste being sent to landfill by 2025. Large fines are meted out if councils fail to hit their 50 per cent recycling target under European directives.

Edinburgh currently recycles around 40 per cent of waste but still deposited 132,500 tonnes of refuse in landfill in the last year.

Recent investment has led to record rates of recycling and a £3.3m shake-up of waste collections, due to launch this September, will simplify the process for 140,000 households across the Capital by reducing the number of recycling boxes to two.

A joint project with Midlothian Council – which pays no landfill tax with a 53 per cent recycling rate – to create a food waste treatment facility in Millerhill next year will also boost Edinburgh’s performance.

The city’s overall bill for burying rubbish stands at more than £14m.

Critics have condemned Edinburgh’s “failure” to deliver on its recycling obligations, with Green Party opponents criticising the ruling SNP-Labour administration’s refusal to invest heavily in waste services during the last budget,

Cllr Chas Booth, Green environment spokesman said: “It has cost just under a million pounds for the council to miss its recycling target. This underlines yet again that better recycling has financial as well as environmental benefits.

“In the Green budget this year we argued for an additional £500,000 investment in recycling and waste reduction in order to reduce landfill costs by £1m – an overall saving of £500,000.

“The council, in its wisdom, rejected that amendment and here we see the price of failure.”

He vowed that the Greens would continue to press the city to improve its record on recycling “to ensure we stop pouring public money into a hole in the ground”.

It is understood that for every one per cent of extra waste that can be recycled, the council will save £100,000 in landfill tax.

At present, the council’s recycling rate stands at 41 per cent, with operator Viridor Waste Management charging a £106 fee per tonne for disposal at its Dunbar site.

City environment convener Lesley Hinds defended Edinburgh’s record and called on residents to help the city meet recycling targets. She said: “Recycling rates are continuing to rise steadily in Edinburgh, with significant improvements saving almost £500,000 in landfill costs between 2012-13 and 2013-14, but we still have a long way to go.

“There’s no denying the financial and environmental benefits offered by reducing the amount of rubbish sent to landfill, and I would urge Edinburgh’s residents to help us meet our targets by making use of the recycling options on offer.”