Jim Orr: It’s time to dump our lax attitude towards recycling

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We’ve all seen pictures of landfill sites – vast, unsightly mounds of rotting rubbish. This is the reality of where most waste ends up. Each household in the capital throws an estimated half a tonne every year onto landfill.

While it is easy for us to put rubbish into the bin and then forget about it, a huge operation takes place behind the scenes to ensure that it is all disposed of in a way that is safe and reduces the impact on the environment.

Rubbish is an unavoidable by-product of our daily lives, and while capital residents already do very well – around a third of the waste that we produce is recycled – we still have a way to go.

National targets set by the Scottish Government state that we should be aiming for 50 per cent of waste recycled by 2014. That’s just two years away and our current rate is 33 per cent.

Burying rubbish which is made of materials that could be reused or recycled is not sustainable; it is not an option for the future. Many of the things we throw away can be used again for other purposes or by someone else who has a use for them. And a lot of what we throw away can be avoided in the first place, such as disposable carrier bags.

If we recognise that waste is a resource and start to change the way we think about waste, we will be leading a more sustainable life and creating a better environment for future generations.

We’re committed to increasing recycling levels across the city and reducing the proportion of waste going to landfill. That’s why the Council is introducing changes to bin collections, which will see a more manageable way to deal with the domestic waste produced by the city.

New collections will begin in September for houses with individual wheelie bins – around half of the city’s residents.

They will see their waste pick-ups change, with continuing weekly food waste collections and garden waste and general waste moving to a collection every other week.

These changes will ultimately help us to increase our recycling rates.

About a third of what we throw away is food waste. In Edinburgh, we now have a new service which means you can have yours picked up from your door every week and made into compost which is used in our parks and by communities.

Overall, we now have a wide range of services to help you recycle, either at the kerbside, community recycling centres or communal recycling points.

This reduces the need to fill up domestic waste bins. Overall, 70 per cent of what is thrown away can be recycled using our existing services.

Equally, by taking steps to avoid unnecessary packaging, buying second-hand where we don’t need brand new, and reusing plastic drinks bottles, we can cut back on what we need to chuck out.

We want to make these changes work for everyone and that is why we are out and about in communities throughout the process, providing help and advice on how residents can make recycling work for them.

We are on hand to listen to concerns, letting people know about what services are available and offering practical ways to deal with their rubbish.

I want to thank everyone for their help so far. If we work together to reduce, reuse and recycle, then we can easily shrink the amount sent to landfill each year. In the end, this helps to protect our environment for future generations and saves money in landfill tax that can be reinvested in other local services.

• Councillor Jim Orr is deputy leader of environment at 
Edinburgh City Council.

CHANGES

The council will begin fortnightly collections of rubbish on Monday, September 10. Green and brown wheelie bins will be emptied fortnightly, grey food waste bins weekly, and the remaining red and blue boxes on alternate weeks. The Evening News Bin Watch has been set up to monitor the effect of these changes.