Edinburgh Council blames increase in overflowing bins on 'explosion' of Airbnb-style short term lets

Edinburgh Council bosses have blamed a 13 per cent rise in complaints about bins overflowing with rubbish on the "explosion" of short term let properties - but a trade body has blasted the authority for "scapegoating".

Wednesday, 4th December 2019, 6:00 am
An increase in short term lets in Edinburgh has been blamed on a raise in the use of Airbnb-style short term lets

Council bosses have blamed the “explosion” of Airbnb-style short term lets on a 13 per cent increase on overflowing bins in the Capital – with officials inundated with 6,000 complaints over the summer.

Edinburgh City Council has increased bin collections to three times a week in parts of the city centre and the south of the Capital after experiencing a 13 per cent rise in complaints of overspilling communal bins during the summer months compared to last year.

In the second quarter of the 2019-20 financial year, the authority was handed 6,006 reports of full or overflowing bins – while the number of overspilling bins during the summer has increased each year since 2015. There are now more than 11,000 active Airbnb properties listed in Edinburgh – while more homes in the city centre are now available for short term lets than traditional private rented properties.

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In a report, to be considered by the council’s transport and environment committee on Thursday, officials say the increase is “likely to reflect the population increase in the summer months, particularly with the increase in short term lets and use of communal bins creating additional pressures on this service”.

The council has backed proposals by the Scottish Government to introduce a licensing regime – while if a tourist tax is introduced, the authority is keen for the revenue raised to be used to improve services affected by an increase in visitors such as roads or waste collections.

Environment convener, Cllr Lesley Macinnes, said: “The explosion of uncontrolled short-term lets in the Capital is having a serious impact on a range of vital services. These figures on overflowing communal bins make for stark reading and reveal the increasing pressure our waste collection teams are coming under year after year as Edinburgh continues to attract more and more visitors.

“We recognise that this causes our residents inconvenience and frustration. We’ve boosted our collection frequency to tackle the problem but it’s clear the city desperately needs a robust licensing regime for short term lets to safeguard our communities and relieve the pressure on our services.”

But the council has been accused of pinning the blame on the short term lets industry without any evidence to back it up. Trade body, the Association of Scotland’s Self-Caterers (ASSC), says its members adhere to a strict code of conduct which includes “clear instructions” that waste is managed properly.

Fiona Campbell, the chief executive of the ASSC, said: “I think the refuse situation is not really to do with us – it’s because there’s inadequate provision in a modern city. Pointing the blame on us is scapegoating – it’s another example of blaming a vital industry for a problem that has not been evidenced.

“I think the impacts are being exacerbated by various community groups who are actively telling people to complain more. Yes, there might be a rise in Airbnb but we have to put that into context, considering the majority of people operate for under 30 days a year, for example.”

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Lynn Close-Hainsworth, who stays in an Airbnb on Easter Road twice a year when she visits the city with her partner, believes visitors do add to the amount of waste piled up.

She said: “We generate far more rubbish than we do over the same period at home because we’re eating takeouts or buying small quantities and not using our own store cupboards and cooking.

“I’d be quite happy to recycle if I was given a bit of information about local systems, but I know most people aren’t interested when they’re on holiday.”

And Green councillors have called for council bosses to ensure the right bins are available in the correct places to help ease the situation.

Cllr Gavin Corbett said: “Edinburgh needs to dramatically improve its recycling performance and a big part of that is improving the communal bins service. I recognise that there are extra pressures like holiday lets and businesses dumping in bins but that does not explain the sheer scale of overflowing bins.

“It’s right that the council takes firm action on misuse of common bins but much more importantly, it needs to provide the right kind of bin, of the right size and in the right place. Most of all, these bins need to be kept in usable condition and picked up regularly.

“The appetite to recycle is just as high in Edinburgh as anywhere else, if the service is right.”