Is Leith Walk the Capital’s dirtiest street?

Alan Rudland has been stickering bins with QR codes in an attempt to force the council into action. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Alan Rudland has been stickering bins with QR codes in an attempt to force the council into action. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Have your say

IT’S one of the Capital’s longest thoroughfares – a historic route connecting the city centre to the bustling docks.

But now businesses up and down the length of Leith Walk are kicking up a stink over the state of the road’s overflowing bins.

Shopkeepers have branded the street one of the dirtiest in Edinburgh – and called on council chiefs to sort it out once and for all.

One local, Alan Rudland, has even launched a one-man campaign to name and shame jam-packed dumpsters.

The 51-year-old IT consultant, pictured here on William Street, has started plastering interactive stickers on the worst offenders in a bid to spur the council into action. The labels have quick response (QR) codes that allow passers-by to scan them with their mobile phone or tablet – and upload their own pictures charting occasions when the bin has been left to overflow.

Mr Rudland hopes to demonstrate long-term trends and pinpoint bins that repeatedly cause problems.

And he called on the council to adopt a similar system to make it easier for residents to log complaints around litter and rubbish collections.

He said: “It’s not rocket science. All of that functionality already exists. It’s not something that would be hugely problematic to implement.

“All I am doing is trying to create a publicly accessible body of evidence. It’s the ability to say, ‘Here is the extent of the problem’.”

Mr Rudland insists overflowing bins and rubbish on Leith Walk has “definitely” got worse over the years – and he’s not alone.

James Myerthall, manager of The Pipe Shop opposite the entrance to Manderston Street, also said litter was mounting.

He added: “It’s terrible. The bins are always full. It makes the street look like an eyesore.

“The big black dumpster bins up and down Leith Walk are packed out. I used to live just behind Leith Walk and it’s horrific, especially during the summer.”

In fact, every single one of the businesses contacted by the Evening News yesterday afternoon said they were unhappy at the current situation – with many accusing the council of not doing enough.

Gordon Burgess, owner of The Bed Shop and former chair of the Leith Business 
Association, branded the ongoing litter crisis an embarrassment to Edinburgh, particularly during the festival.

City bosses received 5016 complaints about missed or overflowing bins during August, according to fresh figures obtained by the News – roughly one every nine minutes right through the day and night.

Mr Burgess said: “I don’t think it’s escaped anybody’s notice.

“It’s a concern all the time, but when you’ve got a world-renowned festival as we have, to have the bins in the state that they are – it’s a disgrace, really. We are showcasing one of the finest cities in Europe.

“The council will say they don’t have enough funds, but they find the funds for things that I would regard as much less important. It’s not a good situation and it needs to be addressed quickly. Bins are not being emptied regularly enough.”

Further up the Walk, Richard Haig, owner of The Black Fox on Albert Place, said fly-tipping was a “constant” problem outside his bar.

He accused council bosses of failing to crack down on the offenders – even when handed CCTV clearly identifying who they are.

He added: “Fly-tipping happens in Leith on a constant basis. Bins overflow constantly. [The council] seem to be penalising businesses more.

“The one thing they are fantastic at is penalising trade waste. Meanwhile the public bins are just left to completely overflow.

“I think it’s been a constant problem. It just seems like basically the bin men don’t care – they are doing the bare minimum required.”

Taman Khalid, who works at Venus Barbers on Elm Row, said Leith Walk had been blighted by rubbish for at least the past decade.

He added: “I’m here six, seven days a week, so I see the rubbish every day. Since the road works started three or four weeks ago, the bins have been overflowing.”

The complaints come on the back of the Evening News’ Bin Watch campaign, which seeks to name and shame some of the Capital’s problem hotspots and force the council into action.

We’re calling on your pictures to help us highlight the scale of the problem and identify where action needs to be taken.

Susan Rae, Green candidate for Leith Walk in next year’s council elections, said she was hopeful “quick progress can be made on an issue which is a perpetual irritation to residents and businesses in the area.

She said: “The situation with constantly overflowing bins does seem worse on Leith Walk and action is needed, starting with a review of the number and location of bins and the number of times they are emptied.

“I know that Green councillors are meeting with council managers very soon to discuss what action is needed to tackle the problem.”

Councillor Lesley Hinds, the city’s environment leader, said: “It is always disappointing when we receive complaints and we are acutely aware that we need to make significant improvements in this area.

“We are trialling a new route management system throughout September, which will give more accurate information to crews about the location of bins as well as more accurate reporting of why bins aren’t collected. For example, bins not being presented or access to them being blocked.

“An improvement action plan will also be reported to the transport and environment committee on Tuesday, November 1, which will detail improvements to the reporting systems and feedback to residents.”