Littering rules slammed as fines quadruple

Carol Wood was fined �200 for placing a small cardboard box next to a full recycling bin at a Tesco store. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Carol Wood was fined �200 for placing a small cardboard box next to a full recycling bin at a Tesco store. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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HEFTY fly-tipping fines which use a “sledgehammer to crack a nut” need to be reviewed, according to city councillors.

They argue the problem of dumped rubbish across the Capital is not being properly addressed by new laws which have quadrupled penalties from £50 to £200.

Councillor Allan Jackson, who represents the Forth ward, said: “I think it’s time we revisit the policy and how it applies to different scenarios.

“By quadrupling these fees we’re essentially using a sledgehammer to crack a nut – and by charging a pensioner £200 because they’ve put rubbish bags out on the wrong day, we’re targeting the wrong individuals.

“We only seem to be catching the ones who are easy to catch in the first place. I don’t think that’s the way we should be addressing the problem.”

The number of fines dished out in the Capital has doubled with environmental wardens imposing 761 penalties last year.

New laws brought in by the Scottish Government last April saw fines rise from £50 to £200.

The radical measures were designed to “deter future offences” and encourage residents to recycle more.

Green campaigners and council chiefs insist the tough rules are necessary to clamp down on the problem.

But critics insist families trying to do the right thing are being unfairly penalised if they put rubbish out on the wrong day or it is not collected.

In November, the Evening News revealed how one Davidson’s Mains family was left stunned when a council warden turned up on the doorstep to slap them with a £200 fine for placing a small cardboard box next to a full recycling bin at a Tesco store.

Self-confessed “eco-warrior” Sandy Wood and wife Carol said the policy was “ridiculous”, and insisted they were prepared to fight the council’s fine in court.

Mr Wood said: “The policy is just not fit for purpose. It’s really frightening to think you can be punished like this just for trying to recycle a shoebox.

“We’ve written to the council twice about this, and still not heard back. But we’re willing to take this to court if need be. I just don’t think these fines are being used in the right way.”

Jason Rust, a councillor for the Fairmilehead ward, said the Woods were not alone in feeling mistreated by penalty hikes.

He said: “I’ve been flooded with complaints regarding bins that were supposed to be collected in December and are only just now getting picked up.

“When bins aren’t collected, excess rubbish is going to be left out. I understand the concept behind the fines, but people are being wrongly antagonised.”

The council’s environment leader, Councillor Lesley Hinds, said keeping Edinburgh’s streets was a priority for the authority, defending the current set-up.

She said: “Only yesterday I received a complaint from a member of the public over extra bin bags left out by neighbours, so this is clearly important to the public, and it’s as much about education as it is about enforcement.

“Our environmental wardens are central to maintaining the cleanliness of neighbourhoods by focusing on enforcement, which helps reduce street clutter and deter future offences.

“We also provide a comprehensive and simplified recycling service to all homes, and encourage residents to cut their landfill waste by separating rubbish from recycling. That way we can drive down landfill costs by reducing waste at the same time as keeping extra rubbish off the streets.”

nash.riggins@edinburghnews.com