Pest control experts warn of rats on the way as rubbish piles up on Edinburgh streets

Nancy Young on litter-strewn street Ellen's Glen Loan

Nancy Young on litter-strewn street Ellen's Glen Loan

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RUBBISH collections are in a state of “total decay” it was claimed today, as overflowing bins and bags of waste continue to litter the city’s streets a fortnight after the council promised action to clear the problem.

Angry residents hit one councillor with more than 20 calls in just an hour after finding their bins unemptied, as problems continued to plague streets across the city.

Overflowing communal bins in Sciennes

Overflowing communal bins in Sciennes

And pest control companies said they had seen calls increase by up to a third as the uncollected rubbish starts to attract rats.

Around 80 per cent of communal bins were said to be at bursting point in one of the worst affected neighbourhoods in Southside and Newington.

Elsewhere, refuse chutes in the Shore area of Leith have been become blocked with litter, while in Oxgangs residents have told of having more than 30 black bags lying uncollected near their back doors.

In Sciennes, recycle bins were eventually uplifted, but bin men chose to leave behind all the recycling that residents had put beside the previously full bins.

In Ellen’s Glen Loan, Gilmerton, residents said their green bins had not been collected for at least a month.

Now warnings have been issued by pest control experts of an impending “explosion” in the numbers of vermin.

Environment leader Councillor Lesley Hinds said last week how she would be “extremely disappointed” if her department didn’t have the situation under control by now.

Last week, the News also reported that supply workers from recruitment agency Blue Arrow were being paid to help remove piles of rubbish and that the city had missed its own previous deadline to clear the backlog.

Councillors have now hit out at the handling of the bin collection saga, with Conservative member Jason Rust saying the situation had spun wildly out of control.

Cllr Rust, who said he received more than 20 complaints in just one hour, said: “The situation in Oxgangs is not teething problems, but total decay.

“I have just returned from visiting residents where rubbish chutes are full, litter is spread across the road and there are stinking communal hallways due to the failure of the council to uplift refuse.

“My office is being bombarded hourly with complaints from residents. Have Oxgangs Crescent, Oxgangs Avenue and Oxgangs House fallen completely off the council’s map?

“It will not be sufficient simply to wait for a further scheduled collection at some future point – we require action now to make up for the three to four weeks of missed collections.

“There is a perception of a complete lack of faith in this council and the guarantees and pledges being made are quite frankly not being met and are therefore worthless. Residents are rightly angry about the appalling lack of service.”

Resident Anne Lister, of Oxgangs Crescent, who is keeping bin bags inside her property due to the communal bin being full, said: “We have two bins out the back serving 17 properties – they are both full to the brim and overflowing. Black bags are now lying at the back door. There are foxes out there at the bins, too. I’ve seen them, I imagine there are rats.

“It’s blooming nuts and a complete false economy. What the council will be saving on bins they’ll be paying out on tackling the rat problem.

“As a result of the bins being so full, I’ve now had to keep a bag of rubbish with me here in the house. If I put it out the foxes will tear it to shreds.”

Southside and Newington councillor Cameron Rose, who has described the problem as “a nightmare”, said many householders being forced to store rubbish inside their home.

He said: “I believe this to be a latent problem that hasn’t yet surfaced. People are actually holding rubbish back. It’s beginning to look shambolic and out of control.”

Following a tour of his ward last night, he said 80 out of 100 bins were overflowing, and added: “I can understand teething problems but this is far beyond that. The council has now had over three weeks to get on top of this.”

Shore resident Stuart Thomson, 39, said his development’s bin chute had become blocked again after four weeks of no collections.

He said: “It had got so bad that someone from the upper floors came down and moved the bin away from the chute to clear it. The bags just piled up on the floor and the chute is blocked again. It’s disgusting. I’ve rung the council but nothing gets done.”

Cllr Hinds, left, insisted her department was working hard to catch up with the backlog.

She said: “I recognise the service in some areas is still not yet up to the standard that the residents of Edinburgh expect and I’m getting daily briefings from officials to keep up to date with progress. Lots of work has been done over the weekend and we’re steadily addressing most of the issues.

“We are largely on schedule with the collection of green and brown bins, but there are still problems with communal bins and food waste collections. Our challenge this week will be to deal with any outstanding issues and get back up to date with our collections.”

Meanwhile, pest control experts said they expected vermin to flock.

There have been reports of rats being spotted gnawing through bin bags in broad daylight, while several firms said they had seen calls relating to rat control escalate – some up to 30 per cent.

But council chiefs insist the vermin population is “largely stable and under control”.

Andy Burns, director of Total Pest Solutions, who has spent 17 years dealing with vermin in the city, said: “We are expecting to see a spike in numbers. Rats breed on whatever food is available and the success of the litter increases in relation to the amount of food.

“I’d imagine that this would follow the same pattern of the bin strike a few years ago when we saw a sharp rise in vermin.

“Rats are very diligent in their breeding and they do not have babies if there’s not enough food for them all. But if there’s plenty of food then they will breed like rabbits. If the food source is taken away then there’s a lot of hungry rats looking for food, then they can end up in domestic properties.”

Mr Burns said rats tended to gather in lanes off main streets such as Leith Walk and Easter Road.

“Fortnightly bin collections will not help because rats can chew through plastic bins containing the food waste,” he said.

“The potential for Edinburgh and the complete lack of consultation is going to lead to a rise in rats from now and into the next month or so. Six weeks from now we will see the worst of this [population] explosion.”

CRISIS IS SIMPLY THE PEST FOR SOME

BUSINESS has been booming for pest controllers across the city as rats flock as a result of the bin collections backlog.

Sylvia Hill, of Wee Critters, based in Old Tolbooth Wynd, said: “Our calls are up on the same month last year by 32 per cent.

“At present we’re getting between three and four calls a day, every day. We expected this as soon as we heard that the bins were moving to a fortnightly collection.

“We certainly feel that the overflowing bins have played a part in this.

“I expect that the problem will only get worse, too, as when the cold weather arrives they will start heading inside.”

But the city council said there was no cause for concern.

A council spokeswoman said: “It’s no surprise that pest control companies have claimed again that they are seeing an increase in demand for business, but we can reassure people that the vermin population is largely stable and under control.”