Edinburgh rubbish: Underground bins could be introduced in Edinburgh to cope with waste problems

Underground bins are being investigated as a possible option for Edinburgh amid concerns over the Capital's waste problems.

Communal bin hubs – corralling together six recycling and residual waste bins at regular intervals – are currently being rolled out across the city, with around 360 installed so far in Leith, Leith Walk and Craigentinny and the next phase due to cover Gorgie, Roseburn, Corstorphine, Portobello, Trinity and Newhaven.

But residents in the New Town, who claimed the bin hubs would ruin the streetscape in the World Heritage Site, managed to get the roll-out paused in their area and a study is now looking at possible alternatives, including underground bins.

Hide Ad

Liverpool city council has just become the first UK city to introduce underground bins and the consultants involved, Apse, are also helping with the World Heritage Site study here.

Gareth Barwell, the council’s director of operational services, told the transport and environment committee: “I would love to see underground bins in the city. The new modern technology is a lot better and the capacity is great.”

Edinburgh already has some underground bins, in the Grassmarket and in Granton, but Mr Barwell said they were “not great”.

Hide Ad

However, he suggested as well as the World Heritage Site, the new waterfront development at Granton could be a pilot for introducing the latest underground waste systems.

He said: “The Granton development offers an opportunity and we're working with colleagues in housing there to see whether that could be the first step to do so.

Hide Ad
A resident places rubbish into one of Liverpool's underground bins.

"One of our concerns at the outset was you would need specialist vehicles but there are some newer vehicles now coming to the market that can collect underground bins and communal bins as we have, so I would certainly like to keep that open as a line of inquiry for us and we'll see what comes back from this feasibility study.”

Hide Ad

Tory group leader Iain Whyte said he had been struck, from reports he had seen, by the value for money of the Liverpool scheme. Liverpool had spent £1.5m on underground bins to cater for 27,000 households, while Edinburgh was spending £7m and seeking more for the current project, covering 100,000-plus households. He said: “The numbers seem similar but they're getting underground bins and a different system.”

He pointed to the persistent problem in Edinburgh of rubbish dumped beside bins and wondered if underground bins could be part of the solution. But Mr Barwell said bulky items would not be dealt with by underground bins. “The Liverpool bins are almost like litter bins from above – they have small apertures and you can put bags in there but you'll definitely not fit a futon or an ironing board or all the other stuff our waste collection teams have to collect on daily basis.”

Hide Ad

A clean-up blitz in Edinburgh is to include doubling the number of litter bins in the city centre, free bulky uplifts for people on low incomes, enforcement notices served on businesses which don’t deal with their rubbish properly and an annual deep clean of communal bin areas.

Above ground, this is what Liverpool's subterranean bins look like.
Hide Ad

Transport and environment convener Scott Arthur said cost would be a crucial factor in whether underground bins were introduced in the Capital. He said: “I’m very proud of Edinburgh’s conservation areas and it’s right we take reasonable steps to preserve their character if the budget allows us to do that. And if the business case stacks up in conservation areas there may well be merits in rolling this out further in the city.”

How underground bins work in Liverpool

Hide Ad

The first of Liverpool’s subterranean super-bins came into operation this week and are due to be rolled out in areas of high-density population over the next two years.

The bins come in a variety of sizes, the biggest being able to take up to 5,000 litres of waste, the equivalent to a week’s worth of refuse for 20 houses.The bins are fully accessible to those with limited strength or mobility. Some are operated with foot pedals, others with ground-level mechanisms.

Hide Ad

None of the bins are operated by hand, a feature that also prevents the spreading of germs.

A sensor notifies the council when a bin is full and a specialist lorry is sent to lift the container out of the ground with a hoist and empty it.

Hide Ad
Read More
National Galleries of Scotland issues closure warning over growing cash 'crisis'