Wheelie bins to be almost halved in size

The size of household wheelie bins is to be greatly reduced. Picture: Gareth Easton
The size of household wheelie bins is to be greatly reduced. Picture: Gareth Easton
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CITY households are to see their wheelie bins for general waste almost halved in size as part of the latest drive to boost recycling.

More than 140,000 homes across the Capital will receive new grey wheelie bins with a 140-litre capacity to replace their current 240-litre green bins at a cost of £3 million to the public purse.

The new slimmed-down bins will manage only five bags of rubbish from a typical 30-litre kitchen bin compared to eight held by larger containers.

Green bins will now be designated for recycling – except glass – leaving residents with larger bins for recycling than general waste.

The new system, due to be introduced in stages from August, follows the controversial switch from weekly to fortnightly collections for general refuse in late 2012.

And it means the overall amount of rubbish which individual households can put out for non-recycling collection has been reduced to nearly a quarter in the past two years.

The Evening News revealed yesterday how Edinburgh’s failure to meet Scottish Government recycling targets is costing the city council nearly £1 million in landfill tax fines.

Despite recent efforts, the Capital has missed the targets for six years in a row.

Environment convener Lesley Hinds said: “The large green bin currently used for landfill will be used for recycling and the smaller bins we’re going to buy will be for landfill.

“The idea is we are trying to encourage recycling. The bigger the bin you have the easier it is for recycling.

“Other authorities have brought in smaller bins for landfill and it works.”

All material for recycling, apart from glass, will go in the green bin. Glass will continue to be collected in the blue boxes. Councillor Hinds said the move to smaller bins would be piloted in specific areas before being rolled out across the city.

“We’re not doing it all at once,” she said. “We know this will be a challenge for some people. It will be brought in on a trial basis, there will be leaflets going out and we will go round and speak to people.”

Conservative environment spokeswoman Joanna Mowat backed the move to simplify recycling collections, but voiced concerns about the move to smaller general waste bins which she branded “extremely controversial”.

She said: “It’s not that long since we moved to fortnightly collections. I’m not sure people are in a position to cut their residual waste by that much again. It could be extremely controversial among people who are just going to say they cannot cope with smaller bins.”

Despite recycling everything she could, Cllr Mowat said she still used all the space in her green bin. “There’s no spare capacity,” she said.

“I’m all in favour of striving for the recycling targets, but I don’t know what research there is on how full green bins are and whether they are full of stuff that can be recycled or whether it is residual waste. I’m not confident this is the right measure at the right time.”

Lib Dem Robert Aldridge said he supported the bid to drive down the amount of Edinburgh’s waste going to landfill but warned people were still getting used to the last changes.

He said: “I don’t think people will be best pleased if they find they can’t cram their rubbish into their bins at this stage. The danger is people will just add rubbish to other people’s bins rather than reduce their own waste.”

Although capacity for landfill-bound general waste will be reduced from 240 litres to 140 litres, environment chiefs believe scope for recycling will increase from 150 litres to 295 litres – an increase of 97 per cent.

Elsewhere in Scotland, leading lights such as Fife and Angus councils have both achieved higher recycling rates following the introduction of scaled-down bins.

Green politicians backed fortnightly collections in principle, but warned lessons had to be learned from the way the move was managed. The party’s environment spokesman, Cllr Chas Booth, said: “As revealed earlier this week, too much waste going to landfill is costing the city an extra £1m a year. So it is absolutely the right thing to do, to continue to change the balance between landfill and recycling.

“But most councillors are still dealing with lingering complaints from the last waste service change two years ago.

“It is vital the council learns the lessons from that time in three ways – meticulous forward-planning; getting communication to residents absolutely right; and responding quickly to what residents say works best for their street or home. Overall, if the council and residents can work together to dramatically reduce the volume of waste, then that is millions of pounds freed up for schools, parks and care of the elderly.”

The plans to simplify the recycling collections were approved by the council last year, but the move to buy smaller general waste bins was only being put to councillors today.

Although the purchase of the bins is expected to cost up to £3.1m, it is thought diverting an extra 21,500 tonnes of waste per year from landfill will save around £2.5m annually.

Dennis Williams, chairman of Fairmilehead community council, welcomed trials ahead of a city-wide roll out.

“They need to get feedback,” he said. “Perhaps they could trial it in one street in each area so people could see themselves how it works.”

Iain McGill, a member of Broughton and New Town community council, said: “It’s fair enough for the council to try to nudge people’s behaviour and that’s what this seems to be.

“I think the way we deal with our rubbish will keep changing over the years ahead and we need to get used to that idea.”

At present, the council’s recycling rate stands at 41 per cent – well below the 50 per cent target set by the Scottish Government. Around 16,000 tonnes of waste is collected for recycling each year through the current system of red and blue boxes. The council estimates that under the redesigned system this will increase to 37,500 tonnes.

The changeover to the new system is planned to take place in five phases from August to July next year.

And the council promises a more flexible approach when people fear they will not be able to cope with the smaller bins.

The criteria for being allowed larger general waste bins will be relaxed so households of five will qualify where before it was six.

And families with two children aged three or under will also be allowed bigger bins – because of the issue of disposable nappies – as will houses where someone has a medical condition that creates additional waste.

Wider range of materials

THE latest changes to Edinburgh’s waste collection will mean, according to the council, that residents can recycle more things in one bin, a wider range of materials will be collected and the amount people recycle will increase.

The new system will mean:

• General waste – 140-litre grey wheelie bin, collected fortnightly.

• Mixed recycling – existing 240 litre green wheelie bin, collected fortnightly.

• Glass recycling – existing blue box, collected fortnightly. This will also take small electrical items.

• Garden waste – existing 240-litre brown bin, collected fortnightly (monthly in winter).

• Food waste – existing small grey bins, collected weekly.

The current red box will no longer be used and will be collected from residents who don’t want to keep it.

The changes mean an end to the recycling system which has seen city households issued with up to ten different bins, bags and boxes for their rubbish.

Up until now, people have been asked to put bottles and cans in a blue box, cardboard and plastic bottles in a red box, newspapers in a blue bag, batteries and textiles in another bag and food, garden waste and other materials in their own bins.

Midlothian success story

EDINBURGH is aiming to catch up with the impressive recycling record of near-neighbour Midlothian Council.

While the Capital faces a hefty bill for failing to meet targets and burying so much of its rubbish in the ground, Midlothian recycles 53 per cent of its waste and pays no landfill tax at all.

Yet Midlothian says it has no plans to reduce the size of its grey general waste wheelie bins, which are still 240 litres, collected each fortnight.

In October 2012, Midlothian introduced blue 240-litre wheelie bins for mixed recycling, including paper, cardboard, plastic bottles, food and drink cans and yoghurt pots. Glass bottles and jars continue to be collected in a red box. Around 80 per cent of householders in Midlothian now recycle at least some goods since the introduction of the blue bins, which offer three times the capacity of the previous boxes and are collected fortnightly.