Tourist tax could tackle litter mountain – Angus Robertson

Edinburgh is battling with mountains of ­rubbish. Like other tourist and festival capitals, the record number of visitors brings with it record amounts of waste. If we’re lucky the glitter is disposed of in street side rubbish bins. More often than not however, bins are full to ­overflowing with rubbish strewn across the roadside or park.

Tuesday, 27th August 2019, 6:00 am
Overflowing bins at the top of Johnson Terrace

That’s how things were on the last weekend of the Edinburgh festival. As I walked home through a teeming Bristo Square, the bins throughout the town centre were full to overflowing.

When I took the dogs for a walk in Inverleith Park yesterday morning, every single bin was totally full. Some had pyramid piles of poo bags stacked on top. Others had bags of extra ­rubbish neatly placed against the bins. A number were in an even worse state. The bins on the main route to the Botanic Gardens were so full, that rubbish was blowing across the playing fields. It was a total state.

On my way back, I passed the Edinburgh Council street cage motor and cleansing team, Scott and Liam, starting their 11 hour stint, cleaning up after everyone and collecting their ­rubbish. In what seems a heroic ­challenge they have to cover from the end of Craigleith Road to Warriston and between Queensferry Road and Ferry Road. ­Colleagues in the rest of the city have to do much the same: four days on, four days off and all for between only £12,000 and £18,000 a year.

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Meanwhile in the middle of town, 40 extra staff have joined the 37 city centre cleaners on 24/7 summer service, to clear litter, empty bins and uplift fly-tipping.

The truth is, however, even these extra resources have been stretched to deal with the challenge posed by the hundreds of thousands of people streaming through Edinburgh.

Scotland’s capital has always had a challenge dealing with its rubbish. What famously started by just throwing waste out the window with a cry of ‘gardyloo’ (from the French ‘garde a l’eau’), developed into disposal into the stagnant Nor’ Loch on the site of present day Princes Street gardens.

Proper sewage systems and street-side collection have transformed the city for the better.

Like many other Edinburgh residents, I can remember our local street scaffie with his wheeled bin and brush doing the rounds. Things have changed with the times and high tech ‘heavy sweepers’ and smaller mobile mechanical sweepers work their way round the city with the support of staff with an old fashioned brush.

Last week, Edinburgh’s intrepid STV reporter, Kaye Nicolson, followed a cleaning team for their shift. As cleansing supervisor Sonny Constance said to her: “Basically the biggest challenge we’ve got is increased footfall. There’s two to three times the number of people in Edinburgh that there usually would be. So there’s more litter to clean up, the bins are fuller, so there are more bins to empty. The bins we are emptying have more waste in them. So it all just take longer and makes for a longer night”.

Edinburgh has quite rightly joined the major tourist capitals of the world by deciding to levy a tourist tax. With 85 per cent public support for the £2 a day Transient Visitor Levy which will be introduced in the next years, the city will raise millions of pounds of extra resources.

I would strongly appeal for some of that money to go to boost street cleaning services. Edinburgh’s ­current cleaning staff do a first-class job and deserve public recognition and appreciation. They also deserve more resources to keep up with the ­mountains of rubbish and litter.