Lesley Hinds: Recycling results can’t be rubbished

Kate Stevenson in Corstorphine with her bin collection. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor
Kate Stevenson in Corstorphine with her bin collection. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor
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I am absolutely thrilled with the latest statistics showing that 
recycling rates in Edinburgh are continuing to increase. As most people will know, over the last year we have been introducing a new recycling service across the city to make it easier for people to recycle and reduce the amount of rubbish we send to landfill.

New figures show that among wheelie bin users who already have the new service, recycling rates have increased by an impressive 102 per cent. That means double the amount of waste now goes to other uses instead of the landfill sites for which they would have been destined a mere 12 months ago. This is a tremendous achievement for the city and shows the commitment of Edinburgh residents to embrace recycling and help protect our environment.

We all know that sending endless tonnes of waste to landfill sites isn’t sustainable and creates harmful gases

The introduction of this service is now in its final stages and by the end of September everyone using a wheelie bin in the Capital will be able to benefit from the new system, which also allows us to recycle more 
materials, including plastic tubs, envelopes and small electrical items.

A similar picture is emerging amongst those who live in tenements. I am very encouraged by the progress made by our pilot tenement project, which is currently being trialled in the Bellevue and Hillside areas. This allows residents to recycle the same materials but in one bin, which we later sort. This, along with new communal bins for glass, has so far helped increase recycling rates in these areas by around 170 per cent. If this pilot continues to go well, we will be looking to roll it out to other areas of the Capital.

As with all new schemes, some 
challenges are inevitable and with one as extensive as our new recycling service, this is even more likely to be the case. I am always mindful that we are asking people to change their habits and rethink the way they dispose of their waste after years of using the previous system. However, it is clear to me that Edinburgh residents have risen to these challenges and the city’s improving recycling rates would not be possible without their support and the small changes they are making every day.

We can’t afford to be complacent. We all know that sending endless tonnes of waste to landfill sites isn’t sustainable and creates harmful gases that damage our environment. Yet what many people aren’t aware of is the fact that we have to pay a landfill tax for every tonne of rubbish we send to these sites. In the past this has been in excess of £10 million per year.

I don’t think that this is a good use of taxpayers’ money and believe that most people would want this money to go towards other valuable services.

As a city, we are working towards an ambitious target to recycle 70 per cent of household waste by 2025. This will be no mean feat but if these numbers are anything to go by, we can achieve it and lead the way for the rest of Scotland, by building a cleaner, greener Edinburgh.

Councillor Lesley Hinds is transport and environment convener on Edinburgh City Council.