OVERFLOWING bins and missed collections are a significant problem year-round and city-wide, rather than being confined to the festival season, new data reveals.
Despite city bosses focusing on issues during August, complaints are at their highest over winter – and almost double the average in January – with problem hotspots in many outlying neighbourhoods.
The extent of the issue was laid bare in figures obtained by Edinburgh’s Green councillors, proving the influx of visitors over the summer is not at the root of the Capital’s rubbish fiasco.
Green convener Councillor Steve Burgess insisted the numbers “blow out of the water the myth that the waste collection crisis is a seasonal or city centre problem”. Council leader Andrew Burns has said the state of the city’s streets and overflowing bins during August was “clearly” an issue – but pointed out 500,000 people had visited over the festival.
But a breakdown of the number of complaints received about missed bin collections throughout the year shows the problem of missed collections is even worse in the winter months. In January, officials fielded 8300 reports across Edinburgh – compared to just 3485 in August last year.
Suburbs and residential areas also fare worse than the city centre. Locals in the south-west – which takes in Pentland Hills, Sighthill, Colinton, Fountainbridge and Craiglockhart – lodged 31 complaints every day between July 2015 and July this year, the highest of anywhere in the city.
Meanwhile, in the south, which stretches from Morningside to Liberton, a total of 11,283 complaints were logged over the same period.
Cllr Burgess argued the problem was not simply down to commercial waste being dumped in domestic bins – one of the other reasons given by city bosses for the crisis.
He added: “Instead, what we see here is a service which is in trouble at all times of the year and in all parts of the city.
“The level of missed and overflowing bins is unacceptable, as is the number of complaints which are logged but disappear into an abyss.
“However, the good news is that the problem is solvable. From our meetings with senior managers and the unions, I am convinced that there is a shared desire to improve the service in a way that residents notice a difference soon.
“Some of that is about having the right vehicles on the right routes, making sure that waste staff are working with the right information and equipping supervisors properly to manage the work.
“At the same time residents need to be a lot more confident that complaints they make will be properly logged and acted on. Over the next two-three months the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.”
Edinburgh Conservative environment spokesman Cllr Nick Cook insisted it was “time the council binned their excuses and delivered proper improvements to our bin collection services”.
He added: “With suburban Edinburgh enduring some of the worst service levels, these figures make clear that the buck stops with those running council.”
More complaints were lodged in Liberton and Gilmerton – 4395 – than anywhere else in the city, figures show, with Almond and Inverleith following closely behind.
Including duplicate complaints about the same issue, there were 57,758 reports received in the 13 months to July this year.
Cllr Lesley Hinds, the city’s environment leader, said: “These complaints translate to 0.2 per cent of collections. Over 4000 of these are duplicate complaints so the actual figure is much lower. Some complaints are not the result of a service failure.
“The number of complaints needs to be reduced. We are taking a number of steps to address missed collections and have recently had productive meetings on an action plan which will go to the environment committee in November.”
The number of complaints per Council Ward from July 2015- July 2016.
City Centre and Leith: 9243
City Centre: 3569
Leith Walk: 3154
South West: 12,294
Pentland Hills: 3353
Drum Brae/Gyle: 2536