Council draws up 65-point action plan to clean up City streets

Edinburgh City Council have arranged for the streets to be cleaned more often Photo: Kate Chandler
Edinburgh City Council have arranged for the streets to be cleaned more often Photo: Kate Chandler
Have your say

STREET-SWEEPING is to be given a major boost as part of an action plan to crack down on the Capital’s rubbish problem.

The city council said it would review the resources available for manual sweeping and deploy staff to litter hotspots.

Rubbish mounts up at Granton Midway. Picture; contributed

Rubbish mounts up at Granton Midway. Picture; contributed

The action plan says street cleaning needs to be “visible and effective and focused on those areas where it is needed most”.

And it says there will be a new emphasis on using brushes as the norm rather than litter pickers. Brushes are seen as more effective at gathering up smaller bits of litter, such as cigarette butts.

The fleet of large mechanical sweepers will be reduced in favour of extra small and medium-sized sweepers to focus on pavements and streets with limited access.

And more mechanical sweeping will be scheduled for the night shift to make a more significant impact on areas that can not be accessed during the day.

West Bowling Green St. Picture; contributed

West Bowling Green St. Picture; contributed

The council is also to investigate the use of quick recognition (QR) codes on communal bins to make it easier for residents to report missed or overflowing bins.

The move echoes the Evening News’ Bin Watch campaign, which has been urging residents to snap problem hotspots across the Capital on their mobile phones.

And last month we told how IT consultant Alan Rudland had started plastering interactive stickers on the worst offending bins in a bid to spur the council into action. His QR codes allowed passers-by to scan them with their mobile phone or tablet and upload their own pictures charting occasions when the bin was left to overflow.

The council QR code would take people to an online form which they could complete to report the bin issue there and then.

Latest figures from the council show complaints about bins have fallen from over 1000 a week to about 600 since the Bin Watch campaign was launched at the beginning of September.

Environment convener Lesley Hinds said the improvement was partly down to a crackdown on businesses using communal bins instead of organising their own trade waste collections and also closer co-ordination of environmental wardens, street cleansing and waste collection staff.

Now the council has produced its 65-point action plan to go further in improving its waste and cleansing services across the city.

It includes cutting the charge for special uplifts of bulky items, such as mattresses or furniture, in a bid to combat flytipping.

Currently, residents can have up to six items collected for £26, but it’s the same charge even if there is only one item.

From January, there will be a charge of £5 per item instead, though six items will still be £26.

Cllr Hinds said: “It means if you have one fridge to dispose of you only pay £5 instead of £26. We’re hoping it will encourage people to use the service rather than just dumping it in the street.”

She said the council also hoped to cut the waiting time for collections.

And she said the council was also looking at using CCTV in places where there was a known problem of flytipping.

“We need to fully investigate incident of flytipping. I don’t think we do it well enough.”

Garden waste collections are to be changed too. Currently they take place every two weeks in summer and every four weeks in winter.

But Cllr Hinds said these collections were one of the biggest challenges in terms of complaints – partly because the council had handed out extra garden waste bins without recording them and so bin lorries would find many more bins to be emptied along their route than they had expected, meaning they could not deal with them all.

Now the collections will be switch to every three weeks all year round.

Cllr Hinds admitted the change was partly driven by cost-cutting and would not be popular with some people. But she said: “People will then be able to get it picked up they’re supposed to get it picked up. It makes more sense in terms of management and getting complaints down.”

She said people would also be encouraged to think of whether they really needed multiple garden waste bins or might be better using a composting bin.

Cllr Hinds said there had been a massive increase in the amount of food waste being put out for recycling, but that success had placed a strain on the current trucks.

So the existing 7.5 tonne vehicles will be replaced with hired 10 tonne vehicles as an interim solution pending the arrival of new 12 tonne vehicles in May next year.

That should mean fewer missed collections and uncompleted food waste routes.

Other ideas in the action plan include providing larger capacity litter bins where locations allow; replacing vehicles used for litter bin emptying to allow for a more reliable collection service; and providing a more joined-up service for emptying bins in parks, open spaces and cemeteries alongside street litter bins.

Cllr Hinds said some of the initiatives outlined in the action plan had started already, including investment in staff training, a new staffing structure and improved supervision.

Attempts are made to identify communal bin sites where bins can be moved to other nearby locations where there is less opportunity for misuse.

And the council is also recruiting more permanent staff across the waste and cleanisng service to cut down on the use of agency workers which is often more expensive. However, there will not be an overall increase in numbers.

Cllr Hinds said the council also wanted to improve engagement with the wider population of Edinburgh and encourage them to play a role in improving the quality of the local environment.

She plans to establish a consultative forum including community councils and improved links with Business Improvement Districts, commerce groups and community organisations to raise awareness around waste management and street cleanliness.

Key Points of the Action Plan

-Develop a policy on holiday lets and party flats to identify whether this waste should be treated as commercial waste

-Identify costs to fit key containers to all bin stores (where applicable) to ensure that all crews have access to the required key, therefore avoiding missed collections due to access issues

-Investigate the potential to install bin housings around wheeled communal bins to create more attractive and formal sites

-Work with universities, landlords and letting agents to ensure students and tenants are aware of how to dispose of waste appropriately

-Conduct a review of waste and cleansing resource requirements for the Edinburgh Festival and Fringe and implement the new requirements

-Focus resources from the environment warden and waste compliance teams on regularly investigating those incidents of fly-tipping where there is evidence to pursue and investigate options to use CCTV to enhance evidence gathering

-Continue with the trial of fill sensors to identify optimal collection schedules and trends relating to overflowing bins