Monday, 17 August 2015

Recycling? Back pedalling more like!


Scottish Borders Council's recent pathetic performance on rubbish recycling plumbed new depths in the first quarter of 2015 with only 36.27 per cent of household waste not going to landfill. At the same time more than 63 per cent of Borders garbage was buried in the ground, attracting landfill tax of £80 per tonne.

But in publishing statistics which show recycling down by a full five per cent compared to the 41% which was being achieved 12 months ago the council claims to have saved £450,000 per annum by the controversial removal of garden waste collections.

At the same time the withdrawal of the green bins is said to be entirely to blame for the Borders recycling performance heading off in the wrong direction when set aside the achievements of most of the rest of Scotland where a number of innovative local authorities have managed to combine garden and food waste collections.

SBC is introducing the food waste caddies in a number of towns during 2015 after receiving a six-figure sum from Scottish Government sources to launch the new weekly service. But it does not appear that any other council in Scotland felt it necessary to deny taxpayers their valued garden waste kerbside collections to make way for food scraps uplifts.

One thing is certain. The council is paying much more landfill tax than necessary thanks to the bungled attempts over the last thirteen years to provide the region with a modern waste treatment facility. Had a Mechanical Biological Treatment plant been delivered at Easter Langlee then the revenue savings would undoubtedly have run into many millions of pounds by now. And still the wait for a waste treatment solution goes on.

If a "do nothing" scenario was unacceptable in 2009 when SBC set off on yet another fruitless journey, this time in pursuit of a disastrous contract with New Earth Solutions, how much less acceptable is the same scenario in 2015?

Yet another group of talking heads has been established at Newtown St Boswells to work on yet another integrated waste treatment plan. So will they opt for a new plant or could we end up with a situation whereby Borders waste is taken 50 miles by road (or perhaps rail) to Edinburgh or Dunbar for processing?

Another consideration is the prospect of landfill allowance scheme fines which still hang over all local authorities.

SBC is believed to have had a landfill allowance of 17,654 tonnes for 2013/14. But an annual household waste total of around 50,000 tonnes coupled with a landfill figure of 63.46% potentially exposes the Borders to EU fine of £2.23m (32,518 - 17,654 x £150).

Although the fines are currently suspended by the Scottish Government they can apply them if they wish. Ministers have previously indicated this may happen if councils do not take measures to treat waste and divert from landfill.

This is believed to have been the main driver - along with landfill tax - for procuring a treatment facility. So maybe the newly constituted waste management "committee" will get their skates on before those punitive financial penalties are introduced.

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