Residents in Edinburgh recycle around 40 per cent of their household waste. The city’s target for 2013 was to recycle 50 per cent of residential waste so we’re more than a little behind the curve. My commitment as the SNP’s new environment spokesperson is to retrospectively hit our 50 per cent target by the end of this administration in 2017, if not sooner.
The council is currently spending millions on sending 54,000 tonnes of waste to landfill. A rule of thumb is that for every one per cent extra we can recycle as a city, the council will save £100,000 in landfill tax.
The teething problems when the council changed to fortnightly collections have made many understandably cautious about changes to waste collection. If we are ever to hit our 2013 target as well as our 60 per cent recycling target by 2020, we need more than ambitious targets, we need ambitious action.
Although the number of complaints the council receives is large, the vast majority of collections are made efficiently by our waste collection crews. New technology will reduce our margin for error even further, reducing missed bin pickups and providing real-time information to the council from the refuse trucks. This will make reporting which streets had difficulties and when waste was collected on each street an almost instantaneous process.
Even with new tech, problems with a service which covers such vast numbers of residents will occur. I don’t believe this is a reason to oppose actions to improve our recycling rate and with it, our environment, economy and finances. There is no easy way for the council to encourage residents to recycle more and landfill less. The uptake of food recycling in Edinburgh hasn’t happened in the way that was anticipated so we need another push.
Larger, simpler recycling bins for residents will make the process of sorting waste easier. If we recycle more and send less to landfill then we can and should be able to cope with smaller landfill waste bins.
The council must be bold to ensure Scotland remains green and beautiful with as few landfill sites as possible. It’s incumbent upon Scotland’s most beautiful city to lead the fight.
Councils which perform best on recycling are those with a population who live in semi-detached houses and have their waste picked up from their kerbside. The best-performing local authorities also have the most ambitious waste collection regimes. There is no reason that among Edinburgh’s 140,000 households who receive a kerbside collection service, we can’t lead Scotland in the amount of waste we recycle.
When policy changes are proposed I hope all political parties and residents see the benefits of wasting less and recycling more.
Councillor Adam McVey is the city council’s vice-convener for transport and the environment.