Edinburgh recycling: MSPs recommend standardised colours for bins across Scotland

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Single system of coloured bins 'would have huge impact on behaviour'

A committee of MSPs has recommended standardising the colours of recycling bins as a step towards net zero.

They said the different hues used by different councils to distinguish one type of waste from another could cause confusion.  And they believe having one agreed colour system across Scotland would result in more people recycling their rubbish.

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The suggestion came in a report by Holyrood's net zero, energy and transport committee on the Scottish Government's Circular Economy Bill, which aims to encourage repair, reuse and recycling.

Committee convener, Tory MSP Edward Mountain said: "This is a wide-ranging Bill, which will affect individuals, businesses and communities. Making important changes, such as making recycling bins the same colour across Scotland, would have a huge impact on behaviour and make a real difference.”

Different coloured bins in different parts of Scotland can cause confusion, say MSPs.  Picture: Michael Gillen.Different coloured bins in different parts of Scotland can cause confusion, say MSPs.  Picture: Michael Gillen.
Different coloured bins in different parts of Scotland can cause confusion, say MSPs. Picture: Michael Gillen. | Johnston Press

And he explained the committee's thinking: "There are 32 different councils with probably 32 different ideas of bin colours - we've got blue bins, we've got pink bins, we've got green bins with red lids, we've got blue bins with red lids, we've got different bins in Edinburgh which allow dry mixed recycling.

"Nearly everyone on the committee thought there must be a way of standardising it so that wherever you go in Scotland you know what to put into each bin. It was a simple conclusion."

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Mr Mountain said confusion over what rubbish went in which bin often led to waste becoming contaminated. He said: "We heard from recyclers that if we stopped contaminating the waste they would be able to recycle more and therefore they would invest in recycling.  But if someone puts food waste in a non-recyclable plastic bag, they can't do anything with it.

"That's why the feeling was we should think of having a standard system across Scotland. Councils will say they have run out of money and they can't afford to do it.  But the feeling we had as a committee was that if you allow standardised recycling more people would get involved than at the moment."

Edinburgh has blue bins for recyclable waste, brown bins for garden waste and green or grey bins for non-recyclable waste. Neighbouring West Lothian has brown bins for garden waste and grey bins for no-recyclable waste; some household have green bins for recyclable plastic and cans and blue bins for paper and cardboard, but others have only a blue bin for recycling, in which case it can take plastic and cans as well.

Edinburgh's transport and environment convener Scott Arthur welcomed any move to improve recycling, but said often the labels about what is acceptable in each bin could also be confusing.

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He said: "We welcome any efforts the Scottish Government may make to help councils recycle more. As well as defining the colour of bins, more clarity is needed for residents on what should go in each stream. But if the Scottish Government wants us to change bins in Edinburgh we would also expect that to come with the resources needed to do so."

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