Tuesday, 21 July 2015

"Extremely uneconomical" food waste collections in full swing

EWAN LAMB chews the cud on a truly mouthwatering issue!

The occupants of every "non rural" property in Scotland must be provided with a separate kerbside food waste collection by the end of 2015 irrespective of the costs involved.

It means local authorities like Scottish Borders Council, whose refuse management officers dismissed such a service as 'extremely uneconomical' in an official submission to Scotland's Government in 2011 are now firmly aboard the food waste bin wagon despite claiming local collection costs would work out at more than £350 per tonne.

But while Hawick and the "accessible small town" of Jedburgh (population 4,030) will get their food waste caddies in time for uplift in September, an extremely quirky and totally bizarre piece of classification by some faraway faceless civil servant means the "remote small town" of Kelso (population 5,639) 'does not require to receive a kerbside food waste collection service'.

Residents in Galashiels, Peebles and Selkirk have been putting out their food scraps for the scaffie cart for several weeks now after Zero Waste Scotland handed SBC £250,000 to help pay for the new municipal service covering 24,000 households. But none of the towns of Berwickshire - Eyemouth, Duns and Coldstream - qualify for the weekly collections.

We wondered if, like the good citizens of Kelso, the folks who dwell in The Merse were making do with an inferior variety of grub at mealtimes which meant their leftovers were not worth recycling. But no, the formula used to place Borders towns in accessible and remote categories is much more complicated than that.

It all depends whether you happen to be living in "a settlement with a population of between 3,000 and 10,000 within a 30-minute drive time of a settlement of 10,000 people or more".The document outlining the criteria adds helpfully (?):

"The above information was published by the Scottish Government along with a
series of postcode look up tables for each Local Authority area. Where each
table summarised the postcodes that fell within a rural area of each Local
Authority boundary. Kelso was listed as such an area and therefore not required to
receive a kerbside food waste collection service."

Is that clear? Oh, and by the way, that 30 minute drive to a larger settlement is based on a HGV collection vehicle's journey time and not on a normal domestic vehicle's travel time.

As we've already pointed out the events of 2015 represent a complete change of food waste collection policy in the Borders. When the Zero Waste consultation was on the go four years ago SBC declared: "Having conducted a review recently of a separate food waste collection service it was deemed extremely uneconomical to provide such a service across such a large geographical area."

The submission went on to suggest: "It is estimated that a food waste collection would cost in excess of £350 per tonne. Scottish Borders Council considers that the collection of both food and garden waste will provide the most efficient and cost effective means of collecting biowaste. Such benefits would include savings related to omitting the need for separate collection vehicles, systems and containers for food only biowaste."

However, within a couple of years of that seemingly sensible proposal being mooted councillors voted to withdraw Borders garden waste collections completely, making the green bins which would have doubled up as receptacles for food scraps redundant and surplus to requirements.

The concept of joint biowaste collections also met with the approval of the council's former waste management contractor New Earth Solutions. Their separate submission during the Zero Waste consultation advised: "We consider that the collection of both food and garden waste will often provide the most efficient and cost-effective means of collecting biowaste in most Scottish local authority areas."

Where did it all go wrong, and where does the Borders food waste end up being treated?

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