To this day, Edinburgh still lives up to its 18th century nickname, “Athens of the North”, with its striking architecture and thriving cultural and academic sectors.
It’s no surprise it’s the destination of choice for millions of tourists every year, attracting students from all over the world and an increasing number of people to live here. But with this popularity comes challenges.
I won’t deny waste management and street cleansing are a real concern for both residents and the council alike. It’s a huge job – every year we have to make around 28 million rubbish collections and are responsible for cleaning more than 180km of streets – but we understand how frustrating missed bins and dirty streets are.
Maintaining effective and efficient waste and cleansing services has always been a priority for the council, but with an ever-growing population and changes to the way we sort our waste for recycling, it’s time we refreshed our approach.
At November’s meeting of the transport and environment committee we agreed a 65-point action plan to improve waste management and street cleaning across the city. This plan looks at everything from staff training and supervision to street cleansing hotspots and pinpointing our most missed bins.
By listening to the public’s concerns, and drawing on the experiences of our teams across the city, we have targeted our efforts to address the problem areas that matter the most to people – and we’re already beginning to see the impact. At Tuesday’s transport and environment committee we heard about an overall reduction in missed collections, as well as an increase in the percentage of street cleansing enquiries addressed within our target timescale.
The update came alongside our latest “Cleanliness of the City” assessment by Keep Scotland Beautiful showing an overall improvement in the cleanliness of our streets, with 97 per cent of streets marked “clean”, up from 92 per cent in September and exceeding the council target of 95 per cent.
This kind of result demonstrates that things are beginning to improve but there’s still some way to go. One of the things we want to do is encourage the public to take responsibility for their environment – we need your help if we are to achieve a truly beautiful city.
To this end, the Our Edinburgh campaign was launched last year, aiming to tackle antisocial behaviour like littering, fly-tipping and illegal trade waste by generating pride in our city and neighbourhoods. The campaign’s first phase, held in the Grassmarket over summer, had a targeted message for litter-droppers and saw the volume of litter binned rise by more than 50 per cent.
More recently, the second phase of Our Edinburgh has seen the focus shift to communal bins, which are often abused by fly-tippers or a few inconsiderate traders. As well as raising awareness of how to properly dispose of bulky and trade waste, this stage of the campaign found more than 50 per cent of businesses on Leith Walk didn’t have the correct waste contracts in place.
We really are listening to your concerns – we want to get this service right. But we’re also relying on your support to help take care of our city, to take responsibility of litter and, if you’re a business, to meet your obligations and deal with your own rubbish collections properly.
This is a world-class capital, the Athens of the North – Our Edinburgh. Let’s keep it beautiful.
Councillor Adam McVey is vice convener of Edinburgh City Council’s transport and environment committee