Lesley Hinds: City must be recycling machine

Lesley Hinds. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Lesley Hinds. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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LAST year we sent more than 132,000 tonnes of waste to landfill at over £100 a tonne. We currently recycle 39.3 per cent of our rubbish. But together we can recycle more and send less to landfill. Is Edinburgh up for this challenge?

We are already making strides towards a greener, more efficient future, with our landfill tonnage decreasing year-on-year. A reduction of 4685 tonnes, or 3.4 per cent, between 2012-13 and 2014-15 has saved us almost £500,000 in landfill costs while at the same time recycling rates are continuing to increase, with a rise of 1.4 per cent in the last year.

The new kerbside service, which will be rolled out to almost 140,000 households from this autumn, will vastly simplify the recycling process by allowing different materials to be recycled in one bin, as well as increasing the range of materials that can be recycled.

Perhaps more importantly, changes will also expand the overall capacity for households to dispose of their waste. While landfill bins are being reduced in size, homes will still have an additional 55 litres of extra space for their rubbish. I appreciate this is going to take some adjusting to, and may pose challenges for larger households, but we are committed to making this the smoothest transition possible and supporting residents through the changes.

For a start, the whole process is going to be rolled out phase by phase, allowing us to learn lessons as we go. We will make every effort to engage with communities, visiting homes, providing advice and monitoring the service to find out which households need more support, working jointly with our neighbourhood officers.

We have every intention of easing people into the new service and will be offering “bin amnesties” to begin with, where we will collect excess waste, empty recycling with the wrong items in and find solutions for families and individuals who don’t feel they can cope with the reduced landfill bins.

We know that this new recycling service can work, as we have seen in other local authorities like Fife and the Borders, and I am confident that the general public want to help us boost recycling rates.

As we have seen recently, missing out on recycling targets has meant a reduction in landfill savings, and we continue to pay out millions each year to send our waste to landfill, with rates increasing.

The council is committed to setting a recycling standard in Scotland, and we’re rolling out a range of measures to achieve this, including technology to help improve the efficiency of bin collections and a pilot to increase recycling capacity for the city’s tenements.

But to meet our ambitious targets we need to see a culture-change. While we will support residents to adjust to changes to their collections, we all need to take responsibility for our waste too. I know that my own bin bag is shrinking as we find new ways to sort, reuse and recycle. I want to thank the public for all of the effort so far and hope that they join me to embrace the benefits of this new 
service too.

• Lesley Hinds is transport and environment convener at Edinburgh City Council