A day in the life of Edinburgh’s litter cops

Shirley Mullan and Andy Payne patrol the Grassmarket. Picture: Greg Macvean
Shirley Mullan and Andy Payne patrol the Grassmarket. Picture: Greg Macvean
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SMOKERS and people munching fast food eye the litter cops warily as they cut a menacing swathe in their dark uniforms through the city centre’s filthy streets.

The Evening News has teamed up with the council’s litter police to patrol the city centre during a typical busy Festival day. However, after an hour of stalking potential targets, we still haven’t caught a single litter lout.

Time and time again prime suspects spot us approaching... resulting in exaggerated shows of people carefully popping their rubbish in a trash can or the cigarette end in a bin.

Wardens Shirley Mullan, 46, and Andy Payne, 50, are frustrated but say even acting as a deterrent helps. “We’re just pleased to be making a difference,” says Shirley.

Despite their thwarted efforts, the team on a whole has been busy.

Since they began stalking the city five weeks ago, the 12 new citywide Edinburgh wardens have issued an extra 266 £40 Fixed Penalty Notices.

Almost 70 per cent of their issued fines have been to those dropping fag ends and fast food wrappers while the remainder have concerned trade waste and business owners who dump in streetside domestic bins or leave rubbish bags scattered on the street instead of properly presented for collection.

During the Festival the crack squad operates on shifts, from 6am right through until 2am, catching early morning illegal rubbish dumpers and late night litter bugs.

Shirley added: “Sometimes you can’t believe how blatant people are about dropping their rubbish or fag ends. We could be stood directly opposite, making it obvious we’re watching and they’d still just chuck it away. Most people make a point of finding a bin though.

“There’s always a few who get angry when they realise they are going to get fined £40 but most just accept that they are in the wrong and that we’re only doing a job.”

Shirley also tips her city centre hot-spots: “Outside of shops is a good spot as people don’t even think about flicking fag butts away when heading in, another is at cash machines as people get a bank receipt, read it and then toss it again. Folk are always dropping fag ends and fast food wrappers at taxi ranks too.”

Each warden is also armed with rubber gloves to allow them to trawl through any suspect rubbish bags and trace it back to a business.

The crackdown comes after we highlighted a Keep Scotland Beautiful inspection report earlier this year which revealed streets in the city centre were falling well short of meeting national standards.

Princes Street and the surrounding area scored just 60 in the annual Cleanliness Index Monitoring System [CIMS] survey, lagging well behind the target score of 72. Leith was the next worst area, scoring 63 in the survey.

Councillor Lesley Hinds said of the introduction of the Edinburgh Wardens: “Lots of preparation and hard work goes into keeping the streets of Edinburgh clean and as litter-free as possible, and this is stepped up during the festival months, when the population doubles to more than one million.

“This huge increase in people obviously leads to more rubbish being produced.”