Edinburgh MP says city's bin lorries could be used to monitor air quality street-by-street

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Air quality meters should be fitted to Edinburgh’s bin lorries to help monitor pollution street-by-street throughout the city, a Capital MP has suggested.

Let us know what you think and join the conversation at the bottom of this article.

Edinburgh West Lib Dem MP Christine Jardine wants the city council to install the equipment on its refuse vehicles as part of a drive to tackle the poor air quality which has seen streets like Queensferry Road and St John’s Road, Corstorphine, ranked as among the most polluted in Scotland.

Ms Jardine is also campaigning to improve the UK’s clean air targets and is currently proposing a private member’s bill at Westminster which would commit the UK to World Health Organisation standards on air quality.

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Refuse lorries could be fitted with air quality monitors . Photo: Steven Scott Taylor.Refuse lorries could be fitted with air quality monitors . Photo: Steven Scott Taylor.
Refuse lorries could be fitted with air quality monitors . Photo: Steven Scott Taylor.

She put the case directly to the UK government at a meeting shortly before Christmas with junior environment minister Jo Churchill.

An she said the government was due to consult soon on targets for emissions of particulate matter (PM2.5) with plans to be laid before parliament next year.

Ms Jardine said: “There are few things more important to our general health than the air that we breathe.

“That is why I have been pressing the UK government to back my private member’s bill and tighten its national clean air guidelines in its upcoming consultation.

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Edinburgh West Lib Dem MP Christine JardineEdinburgh West Lib Dem MP Christine Jardine
Edinburgh West Lib Dem MP Christine Jardine

“Alongside this, I have taken steps here in my constituency to get a grip of the problems in Edinburgh West, particularly the problems along both St John’s Road and Queensferry Road.”

She said she had written to Edinburgh City Council, urging them to fix air quality meters to their bin lorry fleet so that data could be collected on clean air on a street-by-street basis.

“These air meters can play a vital role in identifying which areas need urgent action in the short term. I hope the council considers this and takes it forward.

“The coronavirus pandemic has made us all more aware of the benefits of fresh and clean air. I will keep pushing for commitments on both a national and local level so we can all breathe a little easier.”

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The argument for air quality meters on bin lorries is that while councils already use static monitors to sample air quality, these only take readings in specific locations, whereas refuse vehicles visit every household in the Capital at least every two weeks, making them ideal mobile data collection platforms for the whole city, able to identify pollution hotspots and monitor the effectiveness of any new measures.

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Transport and environment vice-convener Karen Doran said: “We are committed to improving air quality here in Edinburgh. We have in place a robust Air Quality Action Plan which supports the reduction of harmful pollutants through a range of actions, including promoting cleaner transport, like buses, fleet recognition schemes to encourage lower emission freight vehicles and a move away from private car use to active travel.

“Of course, our proposed Low Emission Zone will have a significant impact on air quality in some of the most densely populated parts of the city, and we’re hoping to introduce this early next year too.

“In terms of the way we assess air quality, we have in place a well-established monitoring regime, with a network of monitors in place across key areas and hotspots, which are continuously reviewed and analysed. We’re also considering new sensor technology as a part of the Smart Cities project.”

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